x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Sneijder at an intersection over contract talks with Milan

Stalled negotiations are directly related to the Dutchman's playing time.

Wesley Sneijder has to decide on new contract terms offered to him by Inter Milan.
Wesley Sneijder has to decide on new contract terms offered to him by Inter Milan.

Who is the most globally admired footballer in Serie A? There is no definitive answer, and questions like these are a matter of taste.

Italian football does not have a Lionel Messi, but had you done a survey at the end of a summer in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic left AC Milan for Paris, the name of a gifted Dutchman would have been at the top of many well-informed lists of Serie A's best player.

Yet since the summer, he has been all but invisible. Wesley Sneijder's last appearance for Inter Milan was two months ago, when he hobbled off injured at Chievo after 25 minutes.

The thigh problem he picked up would keep him sidelined for some weeks.

He watched, frustrated to be absent, as Inter went on to beat Chievo 2-0, won their next match, and their next.

The Chievo fixture, scoreless when Sneijder withdrew to be replaced by Antonio Cassano, would be the first of nine successive games yielding maximum points.

Cassano, who scored Inter's second goal at Chievo, would go on to contribute two goals and three assists in that run. Andrea Stramaccioni, the head coach, experimented with three central defenders, and wing-backs, and it began to look like the best use of his available personnel.

Inter charged to second in the table. When arguably Serie A's most gifted foreign player sustained his injury, they sat seventh in the league.

As his return to fitness loomed, sources within the club began to mutter privately but deliberately their doubts about how Sneijder might fit into Stramaccioni's new formation.

It became clear that once Sneijder had recovered, another urgent problem faced him.

That is his contract situation. Inter want Sneijder to agree a new deal under which his pay packet is smaller but the length of his contract, which now runs to 2015, is extended to 2017.

He has stalled, and Inter, flush with the success of their Sneijder-less XIs, felt emboldened to tell the midfielder he would not be picked until he responded to the offer.

Fit enough on Monday for the trip to Parma, Sneijder was left out of Stramaccioni's squad, alerting other clubs to the fact the 28 year old is very much for sale unless an agreement on a new wage at Inter is reached before January.

By yesterday morning, though, as Inter reflected on a 1-0 defeat at Parma, the first suggestions were being heard that, perhaps, the Dutchman is less dispensable than Inter may have hoped.

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