RADJA NAINGGOLAN is undoubtedly one of the stars of Serie A at the moment.
His stunning season shows no signs of closing down as he netted in Roma’s 3-1 against Serie A leaders Juventus recently to close the gap to five points.
Football Whispers takes a look at the Belgian midfielder, and what he could offer should he come to the Premier League.
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Nainggolan is almost a throwback to past years, where footballers would have a cigarette and a drink after the game and nobody would bat an eyelid.
The Roma midfielder was filmed outside a bar late at night earlier on this season, smoking and saying how much he hated rivals Juventus.
It tallied with what people thought about Nainggolan – he told Rolling Stone in 2015 that he considered himself a “discotheque footballer,” making no secret of his vices – smoking, staying out late, dancing.
In fact, it was not the first time the 29-year-old had found himself in trouble due to his antics, with previous Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who left Nainggolan out of Belgium’s 2014 World Cup squad because of his behaviour, saying: “It will be [Nainggolan’s] problem if he only plays to 30 years old instead of 35.
Wilmots did relent eventually though, recognising how good the midfielder could be, making sure the midfielder’s hotel rooms always had a balcony to smoke on.
Current Roma boss Luciano Spalletti seems to have embraced the vices.
“Radja probably finds his balance by always going hard,” he said, speaking about the footage of Nainggolan filmed outside the bar.
“A person can find balance by doing a little bit of this, a little bit of the other thing, eating only a little, drinking a little, giving out few kisses.
“[Nainggolan], on the other hand, eats a lot, he runs a lot, he gives out a lot of kisses and he does a lot of everything.
“That’s how he finds his balance. But the balance is still always there.”
Spalletti’s understanding of how to get the best out of Nainggolan is clear to see in the 57-year-old’s first full season back in charge at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Belgian was a Chelsea transfer target in the summer, but pledged to stay at Roma, in a move that has had huge benefits for both Nainggolan and the capital club.
He now has 15 goals in all competitions this season for the Giallorossi, as well as providing six assists for his team-mates.
He has been switched to from a defensive midfielder to a rampaging No.10 to great success, and it is largely down to him that Roma are making sure there is still a title race in Italy.
Indeed, after his performance yesterday, he was hailed by the Italian press, with Corriere della Sera calling him ‘the perfect blend of Francesco Totti and Gennaro Gattuso.’
Not that he cares too much about being compared to the Roma legend – in that same video where he criticised Juventus, Nainggolan was asked about emulating the iconic captain.
His expletive-filled response said it all – “I don’t give a f*** about being like Totti.”
While he seems happy at Roma for now, with players as maverick as Nainggolan, you never know where their next move may be.
Should he come to England, it will be for considerably more than the £7.6million Roma paid Cagliari for his services back in 2015, given they reportedly turned down a £34million from Chelsea last summer.
Blues boss Antonio Conte is clearly a big fan of the Belgian, and it would be no surprise to see him go back in for him in the summer.
You would imagine that if Nainggolan were to sign for the Blues, he would take Nemanja Matic’s place, playing alongside the unstoppable N’Golo Kante in a slightly deeper role than he has been used in this season, in what would be a formidable midfield.
However, Jose Mourinho is keen on bringing him to England, as Manchester United are desperate to bring him to Old Trafford.