Wesley Sneijder says goodbye to pro football with FC Utrecht stunt

Oranje Netherlands football UEFA EURO 2012
Oranje line up before a match against Germany during the EURO 2012 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Top row (l-r): Stekelenburg, Robben, Mathijsen, Heitinga, Van Persie, & Van Bommel; Bottom Row: Willems, Van der Wiel, Afellay, De Jong, &Sneijder. June 13, 2012Photo: katatonia82 / DepositPhotos

Wesley Sneijder is no longer playing professional football, the 35-year-old midfielder said almost in passing when announcing that he had "signed" with FC Utrecht. In reality, the signing was with the FC Utrecht Business Club, which gives fans access to skyboxes, hospitality lounges, and special events.

"My feeling for the city is great. Now that I have stopped playing football, I want to have a nice place to share my memories", he said to FC Utrecht TV. The native Utrechter decided to rent out a sky box in the Galgenwaard stadium.

Sneijder started his career in the Ajax youth team and made his professional debut for the Amsterdam team in February 2003, according to NOS. He then successively played for Real Madrid, Internazionale, Galatasaray, OGC Nice and Al-Gharafa. The midfielder also played in three World Championships and three European Championships for Oranje. He scored a total of 31 goals in 134 international matches.

This past year Sneijder played for Al-Gharafa in Qatar, but he hasn't been connected to a club since the summer. 

Kenneth Perez, who played with Sneijder for Ajax in the 2006/2007 football season, described Sneijder as a "great footballer" to Fox Sports. "In phases of his career, he was perhaps one of the top three in the world", Perez said. "In his first year with Real Madrid, he was great. And of course, he was a very important link for the Internazionale that won the Champions League."

According to David Endt, former team manager of Ajax, Sneijder will be remembered as one of the best Dutch footballers of all time. "He definitely belongs to the top eight", Endt said to NU.nl. "Wesley was a high-quality player, who achieved the highest level in his own way.". 

Sneijder along with peers Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, and Rafael van der Vaart are nicknamed the 'Big Four' in the Dutch football world. With Sneijder's announcement, the era of the Big Four is finally over - all four have hung up their boots, according to NOS.

Belgian sports journalist Hans Vandeweghe thinks Sneijder was the second best among the Big Four. "I still put Roben in number one, even though he was susceptible to injury. Sneijder comes after that, I think he is a fantastic football player", he said, according to NOS.

Robbert Misset of the Volkskrent puts Sneijder in third place. "For me Robben is one and Van Persie two because of his virtuoso technique. I saw Sneijder break through at Ajax. With him I think of swagger, fun, poison and bravado. A real winner who always led the fight."

NOS football commentator Jeroe Elshoff puts Sneijder in joint first place with Robben. As a journalist, it was always nice working with Sneijder, Elshoff said in NOS. "A great guy to interview."