Dutch star staring at history in World Cup
JOHANNESBURG - Besides leading his team to the World Cup final, Dutch star Wesley Sneijder can make some history as an individual player.
Already, Sneijder has a triple of titles to his credit this season with Inter Milan - Italian league, cup and Champions League - and he has a shot at an unheard-of quadruple in Sunday's final against Spain.
No European has ever done it.
Sneijder won the Italian Cup on May 5, the Serie A title May 16, and the Champions League trophy May 22.
If the Netherlands becomes the world champ, it would be the most productive spell for a single player in European soccer history - 80 years and counting.
"They don't even give you time to think about it," Sneijder said. "Afterward, I'll have time enough to enjoy it. Now, it doesn't really enter my mind."
In this wild season, Sneijder is also still in the running for the World Cup scoring title, tied at five goals with Spain's David Villa. And to think that in August, Real Madrid's biggest wish was to dump him on the transfer market, after deeming him not good enough for the Spanish powerhouse.
Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho realized he was a bargain.
Sneijder has been splitting defenses all year with pinpoint passes and has changed matches with his free kicks. All of a sudden, instead of looking at a glum future, everything turned out perfectly.
He was the cornerstone of Inter's attack all season, and his pass to Diego Milito set up the opening goal in the Italian club's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. It felt even better since it happened at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, his former home before the club rejected him.
Not that he had much time to enjoy that, either.
"Three days later and I was off to Seefeld," he said, referring to the location in the Austrian Alps, where the Dutch had their pre-World Cup training camp.
He hasn't missed a stride since. Under Sneijder's midfield guidance, the Dutch won all three group games despite the absence of injured winger Arjen Robben. Then Sneijder scored in a 2-1 win over Slovakia in the second round and netted both goals to eliminate Brazil in the quarterfinals, 2-1 - including a rare header despite being the smallest man on the pitch.
He also scored in the 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay.
"You have to lust after goals," he said. "You have to feel great about yourself, and then luck comes your way."
Despite being the only European in line to clinch a unique quadruple, it has been done before in Brazil.
Pele and six other Santos players won the 1962 World Cup after taking the Sao Paulo league title when no national league existed, the Brazil Cup, and the Copa Libertadores.