Wesley Sneijder: The flying Dutchman
If the Netherlands are to finally achieve World Cup glory, the Inter Milan star will be at the fore
Born: June 6, 1984, in Utrecht, Netherlands
Nickname: L'Olandese volante (The Flying Dutchman)
Clubs played for: A product of Ajax's famous youth system, Sneijder was a fixture in the Godenzonen (Sons of the Gods) midfield from 2002-2007 before Real Madrid paid $35 million to bring him to the Santiago Bernabéu. Although Sneijder made more than 50 appearances for Real from 2007-2009, he wasn't always first choice in a midfield saturated with stars. Inter Milan paid $20 million for Sneijder this past summer and upon arriving at the San Siro, Sneijder became the Nerazzurri's attacking artist, the conductor of its offence.
International career: Since the Netherlands' modus operandi is derived from Ajax's attacking, total-football axiom, when the Netherlands are at their free-flowing, passing best, Sneijder's importance to his country is manifest. L'Olandese volante has made 56 appearances for the Oranje since 2003, and is seen as the country's future captain.
Why is he so special? Sneijder is the kind of attacking midfielder who enjoys playing the game at his own pace. If he is in the mood, the 26-year-old will ignite the run of play with quick crosses and through-balls to overwhelm opponents; or he will paint the field with passes that deconstruct the sternest defence. Then there are Sneijder's free kicks; fast, sharp and always swerving.
His most famous moment: The 26-year-old scored the Netherlands' fourth goal against France in the group stage of EURO 2008. Quick passes between Ruud van Nistelrooy, Khalid Boulahrouz and Robin Van Persie found Sneijder at the top of France's penalty area. He simply flicked his right foot and blasted the ball past Grégory Coupet.
He said it: "Trying to kick better free kicks for me is like a kind of drug."
What they're saying about him: "Sneijder completes my team." José Mourinho, Inter Milan manager.
Here is an interesting fact: When Sneijder left Ajax, the Dutch media followed him closely. Not only were they interested in his play but also in his receding hairline. Famous for his spiky hairdo while playing for Ajax, Sneijder lost much of his hair while playing at the Bernabéu.