Wesley Sneijder has gone from playing street football in the Netherlands to becoming a Champion’s League-winning superstar. We caught up with Wesley to discuss his development, how he has transitioned between football cultures on his journey, and what he believes best enables creativity to flourish.

Wesley Sneijder has played for some of the biggest clubs and in some of the biggest games of the last 10 years including FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League finals. A graduate of the famed Ajax Academy in Holland, Sneijder broke into the first team at the age of 18 after then Youth Team Coach Danny Blind recommended him to Ronald Koeman. After five years in the first team, where he forged a reputation as a technically gifted attacking midfielder, Real Madrid paid €27million for the Dutchman.

The product of a football family, Sneijder has been a part of title- winning teams in Holland, Spain, Italy and now Turkey. After a stint at Inter Milan and a nomination in 2010 for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award, Sneijder is now plying his trade at Turkish giant, Galatasaray. We caught up with Wesley to dig a little deeper into his player development and find out how he became one of the most exciting, well-travelled, creative and in-demand footballers to come out of Holland in recent times.

When Sneijder recalls his childhood memories growing up in Holland, he talks of the challenge of street football and playing against older players, something that is often crucial in player development. Wesley explains, “I grew up in a working-class neighbourhood. All of the kids played outside. There was a football cage in our street, where I played every single day. Together with my brother Jeffrey we played with older kids from the neighbourhood, which helped us develop our skills.”

The Ajax Academy is known for its ability to help players master their game and Sneijder is one of many players to carve out a successful career after an Ajax apprenticeship. He is a proven goal scorer, has creative attributes, a tough attitude, phenomenal passing ability and is a dead-ball specialist. All of these factors appear to be the result of a player with a great desire to work, learn and develop.

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Dave Wright
Dave Wright
Dave Wright is a Co-Founder of Player Development Project and UEFA A licensed coach with 15 years coaching experience in England, Australia & New Zealand.
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