Tag: Inter

Denzel Dumfries: a proud bull!

We all know the story. A 17 year old Barendrecht player watched the adventures of Oranje in 2014 Brazil with his mates in Amsterdam. And at some stage, the athletic and extraverted lad says: “I am going to go for this. I am going to be an Oranje player one day!” And so it went. Made his way to Sparta Rotterdam that year, where he thundered on the right flank in the second tier. Heerenveen swooped him up after two seasons and it took only one season at Heerenveen for him to land a transfer to PSV, where he got his first invite for Oranje in his first season.

His secrets? Dedication, mental strength, focus, physical strength and speed.

Sure, his basic skills, his touch, his vision… All lacking a bit mainly due to a lack of solid foundational work in his early days at Smitshoek. He grew up in a small town club, not much pressure, and Denzel played as a striker. His new club Barendrecht (top amateurs in Holland) got him switching to defender. Feyenoord tested the lad in these Barendrecht days (it’s a village close to Rotterdam) but Feyenoord decided he wasn’t good enough. Well…

And here were, looking back at 2021, a watershed year for the tall Dumfries. He was Oranje’s danger man at the Euros, he made a big transfer to Inter Milan and sired his second kid.

Denzel is just settling into his new apartment in the city centre of Milan and when the interviewer asks him why he decided to live smack in the middle of the city, Dumfries smiles and says: “Look around you…”. And yes, Milan at night, in Xmas times, looks amazing indeed! Christmas markets, candle lights, music…

Dumfries is still living at the Milan Hilton, but not for long. “I love walking through the city. It’s such an amazing city, and the people… I am never hassled, or stared at. Sometimes a photo, ok, but that is cool. And I’m happy because yes, I came here to play football, but I also like to enjoy my life. And the food here, the fashion, the lifestyle, it’s amazing.”

His start was not so easy. He had to prove his worth and fight himself into the starting line up, but in the Serie A and in the CL: Dumfries is the go to guy. He scored his first goal with a diving header and his joyful celebrations in front of the fans shows how much that goal meant. “I could understand my bench position with my head, but not with my heart. I knew it was going to be a transition… I mean, moving to another country, another language, different team mates, coach, systems and principles. I was prepared for that. But I did expect more game time. However, they had a plan with me and they needed to bring me step by step and in a way, I felt less pressure this way. The step from parochial PSV to cosmopolitan Inter is a big one. And it wasn’t all complete for me, I was living in a hotel room… Now we have the apartment, now I can really settle and focus on football.”

The language is still a challenge for Denzel, but the weekly intense lessons do pay off. “The Inter football, or actually, Italian football is very tactical. Completely different for me. I play on intuition. I want to leave everything on the pitch, but here it is not needed, not even desired. I am the wide back in a 3-5-2 and I actually play more like a midfielder. Perisic helps me a lot, he plays in my role on the left. And all these guys, they’ve been in Italy for a while now, they all understand the Inter tactics to the T. It helps me, all the players can explain to me what is needed.” The typical decisions a wing back are dealing with? “When to squeeze inside, when to stay away. In Holland, when the ball is on the left flank, you squeeze inside. I have been doing that for 20 years! Now, in Italy, they want me to stay wide. Don’t come in. I am working hard with the assistant coaches to get my decision making right.”

The Inter games and tactical plays are all based on patterns. “We practice this to the nth degree. Is it boring? Sometimes yes. We sometimes practice with eleven versus zero. It’s almost computer-directed football. You know exactly where to play the ball when. Every player is programmed like this. It’s totally different to the Dutch approach and I will have to adjust. I do notice I am getting smarter in situations, I do have more ease on the ball and that is the way they want me to play.”

So when are the training wheels off? “Hahaha, for me, I think after the winter break. I want to present myself fully. I am now used to the team, the tactics, the coaches, the opponents… I feel I am ready to be the number one right winger for Inter. And I want it like that. The first months: adapting to the new world, but now I’m there.”

Asked what Denzel’s high point of 2021 was: “Ha, the Euros of course. I was in such a flow. Like a dream come true. My first goal for Oranje was against Ukraine. I had missed a sitter in the first half, so my winner was like orgastic wonderful, hahaha. I was so focused on success. I realised that 7 years before, I was in Amsterdam cheering them on and I remember thinking: this is what I want! I didn’t know it was going to be so amazing. I am playing with top notch players, like Gini, Frenkie, Memphis… so playing in Oranje is made easier because of this. And I am not of their level on the ball. But I have something different. I have my energy, my will and personality. I can help the team with that.”

Is getting ousted by the Czechs on that so favourable side of the draw still an open wound? “Ah no, I can talk about it. We noticed on the pitch that we weren’t playing our usual level. It was tough, hot, the pitch was slow and we didn’t have it. But we were in the game until the red card. I don’t blame De Ligt, I mean… we failed as a team, really. It’s such a waste, but what is there to say. We played in Budapest, a Euros match and literally 5 hours later I am standing in my living room again, thinking… “And now what??”. It just crashed dramatically, no one had expected this.”

And so Frank de Boer resigned. “Yes, and I get that. What he had to endure on social media and in those football programs… Lower than low. I thought it was terrible. He is very experienced. I thought he was a great guy. Crazy about football and very focused on the mission. He is a good man.”

And then Inter. “Yes, but it didn’t go smoothly. I was also talking to Everton. Also a top notch team but for me, Inter was the top. The best option for me. Champions League. Historical club. Those colours. The San Siro. Milan, Italy. I mean the whole package. But I had to call my agent (Raiola) daily at a certain point to push because I was getting a bit anxious. And then I was sitting in the Inter dressing room before the derby vs Milan and the roar of the crowd… I realised then and there: this is why I am here…. And to walk onto the pitch, where greats like Gullit, Rijkaard, Van Basten, Seedorf, Davids, Van Bommel, Bergkamp have played… goose bumps.”

And now, onwards and upwards with Oranje and Louis van Gaal. “Yes he is different. Unique, probably. He’s open, honest and truly interested. But he can be tough too. And that is needed. The qualifications went well, bar that away game against Montenegro. Up 2-0 and conceding two goals at the end of the game, I mean…those matches, you might play one of these in 20 years. And it happened to us right then and there. And we knew, it has to happen now versus Norway. The pressure was on and we felt it. I mean, Van Gaal in a wheelchair, Bijlow out, De Vrij out…. The signs were not good. We were vulnerable. I sat next to Frenkie in the dressing room and after the match we realised it was still a close call. We left it late. But now we can look ahead and prep for even bigger things.”

Denzel Dumfries: 30 international games. “Yes! And I’m only 25 years old! I mean, this is all a dream.”

Qatar, the World Cup. A dream too but for some a nightmare… “Yes, I am very aware. We all are. We have made a statement and we will speak out when we want to. We have a role model function, I get that. Other than that, I believe we can really do something at the World Cup. In terms of age and clubs represented, we can be proud: Inter, Juve, Barca, Liverpool, PSG, Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Spurs, Valencia, I mean… that is the level of players we can bring to Qatar. I’m super excited. But my biggest joy will actually be happening in the winter break: we’re expecting our second child, a girl this time! I want a big family, so yeah… we are well on our way. On all levels, hahahaha.”

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Farewell to Wesley Sneijder

The next international game vs Peru has Sneijder’s farewell as the main theme. The new qualification series for the Euros is starting too, but all eyes and focus are on the little captain first. 34 year old and with 133 caps to his name, the former skipper looks back and looks forward from Qatar, his current home.

“I decided to go to Qatar also because of the World Cup coming here. Football is alive here and I enjoy exploring these types of countries. We loved living in Turkey, and we love it here. And when the World Cup comes, who knows, I hope to play some part. Maybe for Qatar, for the FIFA or maybe for Oranje. And until that time, I want to be an active player. Playing football is the best thing there is.”

Sneijder lives like a prince in Qatar. He describes his day. “In the morning, I am busy with my non football activities. I have a building company in Turkey, and we’re building apartments in Istanbul. In China I have SPort8, a youth academy company and I also have SportChain which is a crypto company. On Ibiza I own a restaurant and since this week I’m also ambassador for the Johan Cruyff Foundation. So, busy enough. Then it’s time for lunch and an afternoon nap and in the evening we have training. And when Yolanthe is here with our son we do fun things as a family. And hey, I know the stories, the big paychecks and what not, but I could have made more, much more, in China. But quality of life is important too. I don’t think I would have been happy in China. Life here is comfortable, hardly any crime, and I met a lot of cool new friends, locals and Dutch expats, all sorts. And Nigel de Jong and family lives here too of course.”

Last weekend, they played against each other, again. “We had our derbies in Milan and now here, hahaha. We beat him 4-0 but I decided to float a bit on the pitch as I didn’t want to get to near to him. I still have an Oranje match to play, hahaha.”

The matches in Doha are played before 100s of people, instead of 1000s. “It took some time to get used to, but like anything, you do get used to it. Playing before a full Bernabeu becomes normal and this becomes normal too. I think I prepared well mentally for this step and I enjoy myself. Just the training sessions alone and making fun with my team mates. I’m now at an age where I can support the coaching staff and I enjoy that.”

Wesley’s Favorite Coaches. “You won’t find Louis van Gaal in my top 3. Yes, he’s a great coach, just not my great coach, hahaha.”

#3 Danny Blind

“I worked with him at Ajax and Oranje, and I think the success we had in 2014 was partly his work. Van Gaal got the credits, but Danny was important with analysis, training sessions and he was a wonderful guy to work with. A special coach.”

#2 Henk ten Cate

“He’s also a friend. But objectively, he is a very tough task master. He’s tough, he’s disciplined, he sees the game. I had my best season under him at Ajax. I scored 18 goals. And I was a bit complacent but he got me really going. And when I was unfit in 2013, he came to Ibiza to work with me to get me fit. Henk was also the one to motivate me to work on my fitness. He called me Billy Bigmans (Big = Pig). Told me I was too fat for the top. He challenged me and I needed that.”

#1 Jose Mourinho

“We didn’t work together that long. My most successful period. He is the special one, but you need to work with him to understand this. He has skills no one else has. His management skills, with 23 egos, that process. He can manage that so well. To get everyone focused for the big objective. Tactically, he is also super strong.”

After his failed Nice adventure, Ajax or FC Utrecht could have been Wes’ new club. But it didn’t happen. “I get that. Utrecht was actually more interested than Ajax but I decided to stay longer abroad. I enjoy this life. I do follow the Eredivisie by the way. Every match. And Nigel and I were cheering last week when we watched Ajax play Dynamo Kiev. We’re on the coach, and cheering Ajax on. That was fun. And I think Ajax will be doing so well, with the likes of De Ligt and De Jong. These two will be key for Dutch football. Everything they do has a forward focus and purpose. This is a natural thing for them. And I love that, which Is why I love watching Man City and Barcelona too. And with Memphis in good form and Van Dijk and Wijnaldum at Liverpool I really think Oranje has turned a corner. And particularly with Ronald Koeman as coach. He’s pragmatic, he demands a lot but he also has that Barca / Cruyff DNA. He’s good in his communication too.”

Talking about Oranje, the high point of his career needs to mentioned. “I have had many. I personally think our football at the 2008 Euros, in the group stages, was the best we played. Van Basten and Van’t Schip just said: go out there and play! We didn’t do much in a tactical sense. And we played ever so well, until that terrible thing with Boulahrouz. My first match vs Scotland was special too of course. I scored my first goal in the first 15 minutes or so. But the real high point was the Brazil quarter finals in 2010. When we were 1-0 down. And it wasn’t so much my two goals in the second half. It was what happened in the dressing room. I surprised myself. I came in latest and the whole team was staring at the floor. And I was like: Hey! We can go home a bunch of losers, or we go back out there and play. And take the game to them. And hurt them. And that did something. The heads came up, other players chimed in and we went out and turned the game around.”

In 2014, Sneijder again plays a main part in the World Cup story but differently, with his love-hate relationship with Van Gaal. “I frequently thought, is this guy a genius or is he insane?”. I think he’s both now. Hahaha. When Van Gaal first started I told him: you’ll need me there. And he did. But he decided to push me and pester me to get me to react. One example. During the tournament, we were on our day off and some of us went to this lounge bar for some drinks. Nothing spectacular. We returned, precisely at 10pm as instructed. Who is in the hotel lobby? Van Gaal. And we walk past him and he starts barking at me. Only at me: “So, why did Sneijder have to go to that lounge bar?” And I was like: “We all went, why are you not asking them?”. And he said: “Because I want to know from you!!”. And I just said “goodnight” and walked off. The next day, I was really pissed off and I played another good game. And I think now he did it to get me worked up. We did well with him, but I won’t pick him as my favorite coach. My top 3: Jose Mourinho, Henk ten Cate and Danny Blind.”

“After the WC in Brazil I realised we were not fully focused. We lost away vs Iceland, 2-0 and I knew we were in trouble. Not because we lost. But the manner in which we lost. We were without a chance. I even considered quitting but that’s not me. I wanted to fight back. But we were going downhill. My biggest low point was the 4-0 loss vs France under Advocaat. He put me in a 3 man’s midfield as the playmaker vs Kante. And I thought… oh… that is not smart… But what do you do? I should have said “Dick, please put me on the bench, that is not ending well” but I didn’t. The coach needed me and I wanted to deliver. But I don’t blame Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind. I blame the many players who decided to skip qualification games, only to play for their club 3 days later! No I won’t mention names, the players know exactly who they are. They let the team down. Fuck off. Should I ever become part of the Oranje staff, those types will have a problem with me, that is not on. You need to be proud to play for your country! Danny Blind’s sacking really hurt me. He was a perfect coach. As assistant to Van Gaal he was so important and his influence was huge. A real expert and he didn’t deserve that mentality.”

“The last years, it felt like some internationals needed to be pushed to play for Oranje. I think now these changes, the new Zeist centre instead of the players’ hotel in Noordwijk…all good measures. When players can’t deal with the freedom you need to create a situation where the focus is fully on the game. And it’s really a big trap, players thinking they are the Man because they are big at their club… You have to demonstrate that in the national team!”

“Another key concept is sacrifice. In 2010, we all were focusing on getting the best out of it. And the benchwarmers did their job. Huntelaar, Elia, Van der Vaart, no one was negative. How this changed in 2012. We had more players with big reputations and they couldn’t accept that bench role anymore. And I realised vs Denmark, if we lose this match, it will be all over. And it is such a shame. Players simply don’t realise how special it is to play one great tournament. Just one already is amazing…”

“My future, well… I can say this: I would not be able to think of anything better to do than be involved with the national team. I would love to be an assistant coach for Oranje. Being with the lads, parting my knowledge, setting up training, just sharing my experiences, you know? I spoke about it with Koeman. We’ll see. For now, I’m still playing and I will most likely keep on playing for a while still. But I love that whole group process of having a goal and working towards it. Preparing for a World Cup for instance. It’s amazing. And I paid attention with all the coaches I had. And I realised, you can be the best tactician but if you can’t communicate, if you can’t motivate your players to do something, it doesn’t matter. Mourinho was the maestro. He was able to let you do things you thought you couldn’t. He had the backroom staff for the practices, and the physiological stuff and tactical analysis. He simply asked you to do things for him and you did. Eto’o, a super striker, he was a flank player under Mourinho, running up and down and defending and attacking… Incredible. But now, my future is the Peru game. One more time part of the group. Having fun, kicking a ball, goosebumps with the national anthem. And then I will be watching Oranje on the coach, with a Heineken! Enjoying myself.

Below, Wesley’s favorite team of players he once played with:


Ok guys: tell me your best Wesley Sneijder memory below!


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Sex drugs and R&R: Andy van der Meyde

In the end of the 1990s, a group of young players was developed under the management of youth director Co Adriaanse and his right hand man, Jan Olde Riekerink.

Two players made their name, relatively quick: Cedric van der Gun and Andy van der Meyde. The first, a mercurial prolifically scoring midfielder and the latter a typical winger in the style of John van ‘t Schip and Robbie de Wit.

Not much later, another “Van der” made his way into the squad: Rafael van der Vaart, with his buddy Wesley Sneijder on his heels.

But where Cedric van der Gun saw his career impeded by a very serious knee injury (he’s back playing pro football for FC Utrecht under Jan Wouters), Andy van der Meyde’s career went stellar (Inter Milan), only to crash and burn via Everton and PSV. Here’s a look at his life, based on sex, drugs and rock & roll…

The former Ajax winger published his biography this week. The 33 year old ex Oranje winger lost control over his life in 2005, when he left Milan to go and play for Everton in Liverpool. “I made good money in Milan but Everton offered me 37,000 euros per week. Double what I made in Italy.”

Andy at Inter

Van der Meyde thought he was in paradise. “I immediately bought a Ferrari and went to celebrate at the News Bar, a popular spot in Liverpool. After a couple of hours, with too much alcohol in my blood I drove to a strip club. Getting drunk in a strip club in the center of Liverpool is not smart. But, I had a strong desire to find naked girls. I saw this brunette and wanted only one thing: sex. And after I had sex with Lisa I was addicted. She was wild, crazy and horny like horse.”

The affair cost him his marriage. His wife hired a private eye who photographed the player with his stripper girl. “There are some pics and movies of me having sex with her. My wife asked me if she was good in bed. A day later, I had to say farewell to my daughters. What an idiot I was….”

The winger, who only played 10 games in three seasons at Everton discovered cocaine, apart from women and hard liquar.

Andy at Everton with Moyes who was on Van der Meyde’s case

“I hung out with Lisa a lot and in her world, cocaine was normal. When she turned 26 year old, we had a little party. Suddenly I got sick. I only had two beers by then but I had to vomit and gave up blood and I lost consciousness. I woke up in hospital. They probably gave me shit drugs…”

At Everton, coach David Moyes tried to get him disciplined. He once got a 30,000 pound fine for being in a bar two days before a game. Some days later, Moyes and Van der Meyde almost ended up in a fistfight. “Moyes grabbed me by the throat and yelled at me: at now you will start practising.”

From that moment on his life was on a highway to hell. “I was once partying in Manchester. I had downed a full bottle of rum. I got in my car and went straight to practice. I wasn’t able to keep the liquor in. Strangely enough, my tests were all fine in those days…”

Andy in Oranje

His constant battles with his girlfriend Lisa and the illness of his daughter, he got insomnia. “I drank bottles of wine and rum on a day and never got tired. I started to take sleeping pills to sleep. I couldn’t sleep without them. I was addicted. And they were pretty strong. You needed a prescription for them and I simply stole them from the club doctor’s office. For two years.”

“My friends had the solution: cocaine. I took coke and alcohol and partied seven days a week. I couldn’t concentrate on football or anything else for that matter. Partying was what my life was about. Liverpool is dangerous if you don’t now how to control yourself. I realised Liverpool would kill me. I needed to leave.”

This was in 2009. But his move to PSV in 2010 was not a success. He didn’t play one single game. Van der Meyde is back in Holland for a couple of years now and totally clean. He hopes to return to football soon as a coach.

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Sneijder looks back and into the future

Van Gaal: “Look Sneijdertje! Those tattoos! Totally wrong. That is not how you do it?! Bring me a pen! I will draw you a good tattoo…”

Wesley Sneijder looked back at the abysmal EC while his team mates almost secured the ticket for the next big tournament. Wes was looking at the Romania game on his laptop in LA – where he is being treated for his injury – and feels the need to explain – as a true skipper – what happened last summer.

He was the guiding light in a team that had lost it. Dependable Mr Everton John Heitinga seemed to be on a summer holiday, Huntelaar left Dr Jekyl at home but came as Mr Hyde while Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel seemed to be playing futsol. And Van Persie was practicing without goals.

“There were so many excuses brought forward….already after the Denmark game… But there are no excuses. We played a World Cup finals against the best team of the world with these lads… And now we can’t score against Denmark? With all the quality we have?”

Sneijder doesn’t believe the EC squad was “over the hill”. Are you mad? Of course not! You can see how dominant and committed players like Heitinga, Van Bommel and Van Persie were for their clubs, right? How can you say they’re over the hill? I’m only 28 years old. Rafa only 29…”

So what went wrong? “A lot… Somehow, the automatisms we developed in 2010 were gone. It hadn’t even to do with form. Jeez, players like Huntelaar, Van Persie, Heitinga, Vlaar, Van der Vaart, Willems….almost everyone came out of a strong season. Every team manager would have had saliva if they could play one of these lads… And at times, we did play well. Really well. But we could keep that going. Something happened…as if a fear-switch was flicked, and half the team tracked back while the forwards wanted to push up. And what happens to your midfield then? They drown…”

Sneijder is on a roll… “And it’s the things you do or don’t do without the ball that matter. Your positioning. Fans always look at where the ball is. They only see part of the picture. But when Van Bommel builds up, what do the full backs do? What do the center backs do? When we lose possession, who do they respond? What do the wingers do? All these things… In 2010, we immediately went for the ball when we lost possession. Even 35 year old Van Bronckhorst or Van Bommel. We pushed forward and we were at their throats. Now, we tracked back…or some of us did. So when Denmark is offered space, sure they can play…”

Against Germany, 2-1 down, the whole world saw Sneijder walk over to the side line yelling at Van Marwijk: “Let’s play 1 on 1…”

“Yes, well… I thought we had them! We started great. Allowed them to score to cheap goals. We got back into the game and I swear to God, in the last 20 minutes or so, they were spent. I thought we would equalise. I wanted Bert to support me and he did. But the team didn’t respond. But we made the same old mistakes. Well…at the end of the game, yeah….Germany outclassed us. But in the first 20 minutes, they didn’t touch the ball…”

The Dutch team got a lot of criticism in the tournament and a crying Sneijder had to be told there still was a chance if they beat Portugal. “Seriously…people criticised me for not knowing this. But I simply don’t “do” calculations when you lost. I want to win. That is all I think about. So I didn’t know this. Didn’t even want to know, I guess. So when we lost versus Germany, I thought it was all over. And when it wasn’t, I was sure we’d beat Portugal. I remember talking with the group and with the coaches in the run up to the game. Let’s be at their throats! Let’s make sure we hit first and keep them down for 90 minutes…”

Holland did score the first goal. A pent up Van der Vaart unleashed a brilliant shot but to no avail. When it was 1-0, Holland started to allow Portugal on the ball. And C Ronaldo pulled the trigger twice when Holland showed lack of confidence yet again. With a pleading, working, leading, screaming, Sneijder… On the left flank this time around, to allow Van Persie the “10” position.

“I had to drift more to the left side, but I’m ok with that. Whatever the team needs, seriously. Robin needed to play centrally, I can easily play on the left. I will always look for and find free space to operate in.”

How different this tournament ended for Sneijder, who can’t stand losing. His analysis. “In South Africa, everything clicked. Everything worked. Every little detail was there. The tactics, the atmosphere, the confidence, the fun factor, the fitness and it was all supported by the results. Everything is connected, but it starts with results. And a little luck. We had some luck in South Africa. We didn’t get any breaks in 2012…”

Holland seemed to be on a roll in the EC qualifications, however. With the Sweden game as peak, with Raf van der Vaart as holding mid… Since that game, Oranje’s performances deteriorated. Also for Sneijder in person. Inter went in free fall and Sneijder got injured. So badly that the nation worried about his fitness. The friendly against England didn’t help. A clearly unfit Sneijder asked for a substitution and could hardly walk to the byline.

“Man, I had a fever. I wasn’t well. But I wanted to play. I shouldn’t have played that game, but who doesn’t want to play Wembley? For a player like me, in Italy, there are only so many opportunities to play Wembley… And I wanted to. But running for 20 meters was a chore already. Not smart. But I was top fit when the EC started.”

And Sneijder was the only player who impressed a former top player like Diego Maradona. The rest of the team grossly disappointed. How…why?

“Pffff…we all came together differently. In 2010, we all were eager to play. Robin had a tough year with injuries. I had won everything with Inter. Hunter wanted to prove himself. Rafa same. We were all keen to play and to make ourselves inferior to the team interest. And there were no discussions about how to play. This time around, there was that debate… Two big goal scorers… Rafa had a great season with Spurs, he wanted a starting birth… This all made the start was different. The dynamics had changed. This makes its mark. One player was not himself as he came back from a long injury. Another player felt insecure as another player was hunting for his spot. Another player had domestic issues. These things all work through. The dynamics were off. Sometimes we do have these issues in a group, and normally we deal with it. We are a strong and tight group. We are one team. Still. But the issues were too big for us to deal with in that short timeframe. And the coach suffered through that too. He got so much criticism so early on already… Uncalled for… But…that is how it is.”

Sneijder and Van Marwijk had a close bond. “Well… sure. He was our manager. He led us to the finals. I supported him 1000%. He was the right man for the right time. And I want to help and support. I want to be important. So I fed him with ideas. And gave him my insights. Like Mark did, and Robin and others… And he treated us as adults. Gave us confidence. And he allowed you to come up with alternative ideas. Bert is a modern coach, just like Louis van Gaal.”

Rafael van der Vaart is less subtle. He felt Van Marwijk was too rigid. “When you are a starter, it’s cool of course… But when you are dropped, it’s tough. You sometimes don’t know what to do to get into the team.”

Sneijder: “Yes that is true. I get that. We had unrest with Kuyt, Hunter and Van der Vaart having trouble accepting that role, but you have to show it on the field. Simple. But I had to tell Klaas Jan and Rafa to cool it a bit, but Kuyt was really super professional. This guy played almost everything the last years. And was important for us. And suddenly, he is on the bench. That is really tough. I couldn’t say I would be so professional about it, hey….?”

Wesley being treated for his injury

Wesley Sneijder was a bit of a rebel when young(er) and playing for Ajax… “Een mannetje”, was the Amsterdam term for someone like him… But he’s grown wiser and more responsible. “I feel mature now. I think I’m starting to become more of a leader. I always had a big mouth and used it. But now I am more responsible in how I use it…. I think I’m now deserving of the band… I’d love to be the skipper for the coming period. I think I can carry it.”

At the start of the Euros, Sneijder felt that this was the last chance for this generation for a big trophy. Now, he disagrees. “Well, you say those things to motivate yourself. But clearly, most of us are still in top shape. Only Mark retired… And maybe some others will have more difficulty playing as starters…. But I think the core of this EC squad could still be important for at least two years. Lets not look past the the World Cup. The Euro squad could have gone all the way, no….should have gone all the way!! But we didn’t. And we all know Van Gaal won’t change the whole team in two years. With Van Persie, Van der Vaart, Robben, Heitinga, De Jong, myself, Stekelenburg….there still will be a core of players under 30 in 2014. We will need to demonstrate that we can still do the job. If we can’t, Van Gaal has the younger options as well.”

On the new generation. “I am totally impressed with some of these lads. I remember when I started with Oranje, I had to really work my ass off to keep up at practice. These lads, Maher, Clasie, Martins Indi… Amazing how easily they adapt. Has everything to do with the high level of the academies of Ajax, AZ, Feyenoord, Twente, PSV and even Vitesse and Sparta. Really impressive and really cool to have these lads in the squad.”

Asked about the difference between Van Marwijk and Van Gaal, Sneijder smiles. “Well…seriously…Van Gaal is a breed apart isn’t he? Van Marwijk is a very professional modern coach. Would work everywhere well… To me, he is like Benitez, like Ancelotti, , Koeman… He is a modern coach. Strong personality. Good people manager. Van Gaal is unique. So driven, so focused on details. Coaches like Hiddink and Van Marwijk expect players to take responsibility. Bert didn’t care what you ate or how much you slept… Van Gaal is totally involved with everything. I like that in him. Plus, he is a tactical wizard. So interesting to work with him. He does remind me a lot of Cruyff (funnily enough) and Mourinho. I worked with him at Ajax and knew he would be great. In a way, a nice progression after Bert van Marwijk, who taught us to that winning is important, taught us to operate as a unit. Play with grit. He instilled some “German” football in us. Now, with Van Gaal, we might add some icing on the cake.”

Beauty and the beast, Wes and Yo happy in Italy

The little big man enjoys working with youngsters too, realising he’s turning into a veteran almost. “Well, I’m close to 100 caps. That is quite something eh? And yes, I enjoy working with younger players. It’s a challenge and a responsibility. But I think we’re in good shape with all the talent.”

How did he experience the first games under Van Gaal? “Clearly, we have a newly found resilience, coupled with changes in tactics. And the new players have added something extra. Both in terms of football options as in pressure on the older players. It’s good. It seems that most of us are doing well. Robin settled in nicely with ManU, Rafa is happy in Hamburg, Kuyt is happy in Turkey, he’s scoring goals and is important there. Players need that. And I don’t worry about the youngsters. They will all get a great carreer if they keep on developing like this. And 12 out of 4 is great! We are getting used to those qualifications now, aren’t we? But it’s good. I will have to fight my way back into the team, haha…”

Sneijder suffers an injury and is ruled out for weeks. He was being treated in LA last week and expects a quicker recovery as a result. Here is a pic of Wes watching Romania – Holland on his laptop.

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