Dutch star Sneijder to stay at Inter Milan – what’s next for Manchester United?

Manchester United want Wesley Sneijder, but does the Dutch star want Manchester United?

Unfortunately for United, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Sneijder, whose five goals have helped the Netherlands reach their first World Cup final since 1978, has been mentioned as United’s #1 summer target. But after Sunday’s showdown against Spain, he’s going to be looking towards a future in Milan, not Manchester.

In comments that are no doubt music to Rafa Benitez’s ears, Sneijder has pledged his future to Inter, saying, ‘I am staying. I will play for Inter Milan next season.

‘My heart is in Milan. With Inter, I won everything last season and there’s a lot more to win, like the European Super Cup, Italian Super Cup and the Club World Cup, which are all great trophies.’

And to back up his comments, when he returns from South Africa, the 26-year-old is going to hammer out a contract extension that will keep him at the San Siro until 2015, according to the Daily Mail.

Even though trying to convince Inter to part with such a key piece was always going to be a tough task, it’s still a big blow for United. His scintillating showings in South Africa have cemented his place as one of the top talents in the game, and like he’s propelled the Dutch squad to within reach of a first World Cup title, he could have been that kind of difference maker that could separate United from an ever-growing pack of Premier League and Champions League title contenders.

All the same, it’s a big boost for Benitez, who not only scores a personal victory over a former foe but also doesn’t have to worry about replacing one of the most integral pieces of his new squad. He could still lose Maicon to Real Madrid, but even if that happens, Inter will still be well-positioned to make a run at another big trophy haul.

So, if Sneijder’s now out of the picture, who could United turn their focus on to fill their need for a new playmaker?

The first name on their list should be rising German star Mesut Ozil, who boosted his stock greatly with impressive performances for Germany at the World Cup. With only one year left on his current contract at Werder Bremen, it would seem inevitable that he’ll be on the move sometime this summer.

Ozil recently stated that he would be open to a move to the Premier League, and he spoke highly of United, who were interested in him before his move to Werder Bremen in the summer of 2008.

Werder Bremen have said that they expect bids to come from Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, and there’ve also been links with Barcelona and Manchester City. United may not want to enter into a bidding war, but for someone who could make an instant impact and hold a position down for many, many years to come, the least the club can do is make a serious run at him.

If United don’t throw their hat in the ring for Ozil, another option that has been mentioned throughout the summer is Sneijder’s compatriot and former Real Madrid teammate Rafael Van der Vaart.

Van der Vaart hasn’t been able to hold down a regular starting place in his two seasons at Real Madrid and has played only 45 minutes in the knockout stages of the World Cup after starting the first three matches, but his quality is undisputed. A bid of £20m was mentioned earlier this summer, but given what Real paid for him and that he isn’t someone they desperately need, he could leave for less. And relative to his reputation and the impact that he could have at United, being able to land him for £10m-15m would be a real bargain.

Perhaps the news on Sneijder could see United revive their interest in free agent Joe Cole. United appeared to be favorites for the former Chelsea man until his wage demands reportedly put a halt to United’s interest, but with Cole no closer to finding a new home and United no closer to finding a new midfielder, it might not be too late for both sides to meet in the middle.

But whether it’s Ozil, Van der Vaart, Cole or someone else, United can’t afford to sit idly. Perhaps the end of the World Cup will see their transfer activity pick up, but only time will tell what Sir Alex Ferguson has up his sleeve, or who, rather.

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