Amidst the daily flotsam left strewn haphazardly by the torrent of transfer links and signing rumours, you could be forgiven for missing the elusive glint that represents a story that genuinely piques the interest.
A player purchased by Dundee United certainly alerted people’s eyebrows to raised at least to mid-forehead. The Tannadice club had signed the younger brother of Dutch superstar Wesley Sniejder, Rodney.
The 24yr old followed in the footsteps of his esteemed sibling by starting off at the fabled Ajax Academy, the footballing prodigy factory responsible for so many wonderful footballers. Rodney reportedly had his head turned by Real Madrid as a youngster but under the guiding tutelage of his brother Wesley, he stayed in Amsterdam.
A loan spell at FC Utrecht and two years at RKC Waalwijk have been the opportunities given to the youngest of the Sneijder brothers. Upon playing in a friendly against the Terrors, United manager Jackie McNamara took the opportunity to swoop for the Dutch twenty four year old.
This less illustrious path taken by Rodney in comparison to Oranje luminary Wesley opens up the age old quandary – are some footballers born with talent?
Seeing as Wesley and Rodney shared the same upbringing as youngsters and the same resources offered by the Ajax Academy, why has one blossomed into one of the world’s leading lights of the game whilst another now plies his trade in a League bereft of the spotlight offered by other European Leagues?
There are other variables to consider other than family and training of course. If you are blessed with brothers or sisters then you are more than aware of the stark difference in personality between siblings. Mentality is half the battle in persevering with a footballing career. Perhaps Rodney struggles with the looming shadow that Wesley’s career has manufactured?
There are other cases that support this hypothesis. Eden Hazard, current Premier League champion and regularly included in most people’s Top Ten Players list, also has a younger brother. Twenty two year old Thorgan Hazard is faring a little better than the younger Sneijder, currently playing as an attacking midfielder for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga, via loans at Zulte Waregem and then at his current club before joining permanently. Initially, he joined his older brother at Stamford Bridge but failed to impress Mourinho enough to include him in the first team squad. Instead, he joined the masses of starlets sent on loan to a wide range of countries and leagues.
This was no hindrance to the talented Thorgan however. He was awarded the Best Footballer award – the Belgian Golden Shoe – whilst at Waregem and recently was awarded his first international cap by Belgium. The trees being figuratively pulled up though, are smaller in stature in comparison to Eden, last years Premier League Player of the Year.
When you consider that the parents of Eden, Thorgan, Kylian and Ethan were both footballers and went to great lengths to ensure that the fledgling careers of the Junior Hazards were uninhibited, then at what point does talent become genetic?
Do every set of siblings receive an unfair share of the talent? There are others who buck this trend.
Yaya and Kolo Toure are the most obvious example that spring to mind. Both have had glittering careers in vastly different positions. Kolo broke through first, becoming a defensive titan at Arsenal, whilst Yaya had to bide his time before hitting the big time at Barcelona.
Frank and Ronald De Boer were also brothers who evidenced that talent can be evenly shared. Both earned a raft of caps for the Dutch national side and their domestic careers were an extensive roll call of honours.
Gary and Phill Neville for ten years racked up trophies for fun at Old Trafford, despite the obvious limitations in pure skill. What both men did get gifted by their parents in huge amounts was a work ethic and ethos to work on any weaknesses they had. Every drop of skill was squeezed from both players in careers that showed what anyone can achieve when hard work is applied. A tip of the cap to Neville Neville.
Socrates and Rai. Michael and Brian Laudrup. The Charlton brothers. All fantastic players who utilised what was handed down by their respective generations and their careers reaped the benefits.
Despite these examples, the trend for brothers who choose to play football as a career and enjoy contrasting fortunes still exists.
Rafael and Fabio Da Silva. Ronald and Erwin Koeman. Fabio and Paolo Cannavaro. Filipe and Simone Inzaghi. Rio and Anton Ferdinand. Xabi and Mikel Alonso. The list is long and with each set of names, the point raised regarding footballing DNA grows slightly more prominent.
So the odds are slightly higher in terms of achieving success if your older brother has blazed a trail before you. With everyone fawning over your older brother – who you would naturally compete with anyway – you face a struggle to escape the assumptions that you will face from coaches and scouts, from fans to team mates. They will always compare you to the superstar that shares your name.
The shadow isn’t inescapable however. Step forward Phillip Neville, Rai and Brian Laudrup. They have torn themselves from the clutches of conjecture and grabbed their fair share of adulation.
Rodney, you can bathe yourself in limelight if you apply yourself and use wisely the education that your genius brother also had. Your other brother Del though? Well, this time next year, he’ll be a millionaire.