Wesley Sneijder Could End Up at Tottenham, Arsenal or PSG, and Assessing Chelsea’s Title Ambitions

Brazil 2014 World Cup StadiumIt would take hundreds of writers to really cover the entire soccer world. There’s so much going on somewhere on earth — be they games played, storylines made or colorful characters acting colorfully — that one or two people can’t possibly do them all justice. That’s where you come in. Or coverage survives on interaction with fans around the world. In fact, it can’t thrive without it.

Regardless of the platform, it’s your messages that fuel our desire to look out into the world and call things as we see them. So please, please, please keep us in mind when you have opinions to share or questions you want answered.

I’d love for NESN soccer to be the home of the soccer question and answer. Given our resources, I think it’s the most fruitful approach to analyzing the sport. It helps us know which stories to tell. The more we interact and engage, the better we’ll understand the game and the world in which we live.

See a good soccer story we haven’t touched? Let us know. Love or hate something we’ve said or written? Make your voice heard. Critics and E-Thugs, troll and burn away. We need your contributions. They challenge us and keep us honest.

We’re human beings here, and we can take it. Besides, praise or a word of thanks from one person generally outweighs the flames and vitriol from a thousand. And I can’t let the holiday season pass without sending a big “thank you” to our supporters — those of you who’ve sent a kind word our way. Your encouragement keeps us going, day in and day out. You are like family. It’s an honor and a pleasure to do this every day because you make it so. Thanks.

Anyways, Consider this a call to arms — but peaceful like. And without further ado, here it is — back by popular demand — the NESN Soccer mailbag.

I want to ask you if it’s sure that Wesley Sneijder will join PSG in January, as you wrote in your article?
— Panagiotis Koumian, Greece

Hello, Panagiotis. It’s not certain that Sneijder will end up at PSG, but it’s almost certain that he’s leaving Inter Milan in January. His relationship with the club is broken, and I don’t see any way they can reconcile.

PSG was among the first clubs with which he was linked ahead of the January transfer window, and it’s a logical destination for him. The French club has the money and the project to attract a player of his caliber. Watch Javier Pastore’s situation. He was one of the first of PSG’s galacticos, but he’s not an automatic starter under manager Carlo Ancelotti. If PSG offloads the struggling Argentine next month (AC Milan is a rumored destination, but Inter could be waiting in the wings), it will create an opening for a player like Sneijder to fill.

Also, there is a rumor coming out of Italy that he’s agree to join Tottenham, and the clubs are trying to agree on a fee. That one’s unconfirmed at this point.

Where do you think he [Wesley Sneijder] will end up?
– Kyle Caldarelli, Elkton, Md.

Hi, Kyle. Sorry for making you wait for my answer, but I figured I could give a better answer here than on Twitter.

Sneijder’s is the transfer saga to watch in January, as he’s one of the few world-class players who is available for a reasonable price. Also, he hasn’t competed in the UEFA Champions League this season. It’s almost unheard of for a player of his quality to be in this situation, and I’m expecting a bit of a scramble for his signature.

His salary is what’s driving him out of Inter, as the Italian club is learning to exist in what I call “Serie A’s Age of Austerity.” He reportedly makes €6 million ($7.8 million) per season, a figure that top clubs in England, Spain (Barca and Real Madrid), France (PSG only) and even Germany can meet. Also, the reported transfer fee of around £12million ($19.4 million) is reasonable for most top teams to spend.

Tuesday’s news about him agreeing to terms with Tottenham makes me think one of two things are going on: He’s either willing to come down from that figure, or Tottenham is ready to break the bank. Given the club’s history under chairman Daniel Levy, I think it’s the former.

Money won’t be much of an issue with his move. Tottenham has the early lead, but that’s could be changing at this very moment. I’d expect other clubs to match the transfer fee and throw more money Sneijder’s way. It’s really his choice at this point.

I like to use the process of elimination to answer these sorts of questions, so let’s take a look. In Spain, Barcelona seems highly unlikely given their set style of play and embarrassment of riches in the midfield and attack. Real Madrid would be an option, but his old friend Jose Mourinho is on his way out. Also, given Sneijder’s previous stint at the club, I’d rule that one out too. I don’t think any other Spanish team can afford him at this point.

Juventus is the only Italian club I could see him joining, and I just don’t see it happening.

In France, it’s PSG or bust based on his salary. See the previous question for my thoughts on that one.

He’s also been linked with Anzhi Makhachkala, the mega-rich Russian club. Samuel Eto’o would probably love to link up with his former Inter teammate, but manager Guus Hiddink‘s impending retirement will probably reduce the chances of that happening.

There two options in Germany — Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund — that are not out of the question. It would be tough for him to displace Bayern’s current crop of stars, so I’d be shocked if he went there. But the Bavarians can afford him. Dortmund is an intriguing option, as the reigning Bundesliga champion is in the last 16 of the Champions League. It has some money to spend, but not too much. Sneijder is at the top end of what it can afford.

That leaves us with the English clubs.  Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with him in the past. City has a wealth of attacking players already. Samir Nasri (signed last season) and David Silva (who recently signed a new contract) play his position. He could drop deeper and spell Yaya Toure, but it’s unlikely that he’d sign just to become a utility player.

Manchester United is in a similar position with Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverly playing where Sneijder is often deployed. Chelsea is in a similar state, as Oscar, Juan Mata and Edin Hazard are fighting for minutes. Victor Moses and Marko Marin are pushing for minutes as well. It’s not to say Sneijder wouldn’t play ahead of any of these players. It’s just that each club seems to be committed to each of these players.

Tottenham is a likely English destination, but there is another one just down the road. Arsenal rarely spends in January (or ever), but that’s going to change in the coming years. Arsene Wenger needs a creative influence in team, and Sneijder could do the trick. The Gunners already have the money to compete with Tottenham. They also have a motive: vindictiveness.

The short answer is Arsenal, Tottenham or PSG. Thanks for the question, Kyle.

And I also wish you to tell your opinion about the winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
– Panagiotis Koumian, Greece

The finalists are Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Cristiano Ronaldo. I think the world of Iniesta, and he was deservedly named the best player at Euro 2012. But Ronaldo and Messi were on another planet in 2012.

Mourinho would pick Ronaldo because he won La Liga … and to keep his star player happy. Patrice Evra likes Ronaldo because he was great without the supporting cast that Messi has. Both make valid points, but if there’s a time to downplay team accomplishments and focus on the individual, it’s now.

Ronaldo was slightly ahead after his good showing at Euro 2012, but Messi’s pulled away from August – December. He’s scored 36 goals in all competitions, while Ronaldo (and Madrid) failed to keep pace. Sure, goals aren’t everything, but when a player breaks a 40-year-old record goal-scoring, we have to pay attention. I’ll expand on this in the next week or so, but it’s Messi.

Can Chelsea win the Premier League title under Rafa Benitez?
– Christopher, Atlanta, GA 

Anything is possible, but I don’t think Chelsea is strong enough to sustain a title assault. The “old guard” is missing their top Drog (Didier Drogba), and they’re another year removed from their best days. I expect Chelsea to have another blip or two in the coming months, leaving little chance of winning the Premier League.

Also, Manchester United is already seven points clear, and I think they’re only going to get better in the second half of the season. The title is United’s to lose, and if it does, City will be there to scoop it up … again.

Thanks for the question, Christopher.

What did Santa Bring you for Christmas?
– David, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Hi, David. Santa was great as always. He brought me all the practical things I need, but never have the good sense to go out and get myself. These include some clothes, a whole bunch of food and drink, two epic parties and a bit of rest. I’ve got to thank my family for another great holiday season — easily the best in four or five years.

That’s all for this week. Thank you very much for all the support. I wish you a happy holiday season and all the best for the new year.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O’Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer, NESN Soccer’s Facebook page or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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