Inter owned midfielder Radja Nainggolan discussed his career, Inter and the ongoing Coronavirus situation in an interview with Er Faina on Instagram Live earlier today. His words were noted by Italian media outlet FcInter1908.
First, he discussed his time at Roma.
“It was difficult to leave Cagliari the first time to go to Rome. Cellino didn’t want to let me leave. Several offers came in, but I had the agreement from June with the Giallorossi and then I arrived in January. I didn’t go to the for the money but because it was a good opportunity for me. I saw De Rossi and Totti and I thought, ‘Wow, what a phenomenon’. They took me in, they’re the opposite of what you might think.”
He then touched on the rumours that he was a problematic character in the dressing room.
“They told me that I created problems in the locker room but it’s not true, I always bonded well with everyone. The only thing is that I have my character and I’m direct. There in Rome I immediately bonded with Pjanic and Benatia because of our language, Gervinho was there too. Pjanic gave me a big hand, then we all bonded. I’ve got plenty of anecdotes, but what happens in the locker room stays there. Sometimes I’d arrive tired at training, I’d fall asleep on the couch and the next day the photos were taken. I never questioned any choice. But when I wasn’t playing, I wasn’t happy, because I always felt important, able to help the team. But in a big club there are great players and whether or not I played or not, I would encourage everyone.”
Nainggolan spoke about his best game with the Giallorossi.
“I remember a derby in which we won 2-0 and I was playing in the midfield, it was mine as captain, Totti and De Rossi were missing, it was an important victory.”
He discussed his famous goal against Juventus.
“The goal against them was a personal release. But we often beat them at home in the Roma shirt. I don’t hate anyone. The thing that always bothers me is that when a person doesn’t feel like going to play for a club, they may not go. Not because I hate them, but if I won a Scudetto playing five games a year I wouldn’t feel it’s mine. Maybe I didn’t go at the beginning for fear of not playing, I went another way, but you don’t have to choose the team that always wins. Winning is normal there, a Scudetto at Roma is different. Would I say yes to Juve? I’d say no to Juve. That’s why. Pjanic is at Juve, I talk to him every day. I’m not angry with Juve.”
The Belgian midfielder spoke about his strongest opponent at Roma’s rivals, Laizo.
“Especially in recent years there is Milinkovic-Savic. Klose also. But I’ve never suffered from a particular player. Luis Alberto is on a different level this year and makes the difference, then Immobile who scores a lot. Acerbi has made the difference again this year. I once came back from the Maldives with Inzaghi and Immobile. For nine hours we talked about football and we didn’t even stop for ten minutes. We talk about everything, derby, matches, players, wrong goals or facts. You can see Inzaghi’s hand on Lazio, he even risked going away from there but every one of them is confirmed and he’s doing better and better.”
Nainggolan spoke about his eventual departure from Roma.
“I left to respect myself. They did things behind my back, and the way I look at it, I wouldn’t even have been able to say goodbye. Since this person wanted me to leave, I chose to go where I wanted. I chose to go to Inter, I didn’t want to change country and they had Spalletti with whom I had done well at Roma. The situation was easy for him too. It was easy to choose. The Inter fans have always been close to me and I’m a big fan, but the first three or four months I was sadder to have left Roma than happy to have arrived at Inter. Then it started off badly. I had to stop because of an injury. Then a start and a goal but the performance itself wasn’t consistent. Maybe I wasn’t myself, maybe it was my fault. I can’t explain it, it was the first time I thought I could give more of myself.”
He spoke about his return to Sardinia to play for Cagliari, where he is currently on loan.
“I went back to Cagliari because I was dumped. Going to China, I already knew I couldn’t play friendly games. When they told me I could leave, I thought they would give me a chance. But it went the other way. I started looking around and Giulini had already been calling me the year before. When he heard about this occasion, he told me that it was the year of the centenary, an important year, a squad that I know. There were other proposals. I had also spoke to Fiorentina, Sampdoria. But when I decided something, I follow it and I saw that Cagliari had a project that I liked. After a year like this I thought I would find serenity again.”
The Belgian spoke about a potential restart to the season.
“I’d like to play again, but only if it’s safe to do so. Health comes first. Even if I don’t like games behind closed doors.”
He discussed which team he thinks will win the league title this season.
“Juve. Without taking anything away from Lazio, who are working miracles. The Bianconeri have a very big squad. They’re a great group. They’ve got to play it and in football never say never. Inter? They’ve changed a lot, even in their style of play, it’s more physical. They’re always there, but they’re always missing something to win. Better with Icardi or Lukaku? Two completely different players. Mauro has shown he knows how to score goals. Romelu scores fewer goals maybe but he contributes more, he bumps into everyone, he goes the extra mile. In the national team I even took him down shoulder to shoulder, but he’s powerful. Technically he’s not very clean but in the national team, when training ends, he goes to all the positions in the penalty area. He trains on the precision of the shot, if he looks at the ground, he knows how to hit the ball. He trains a lot in the area. He has to be acknowledged as a hard worker.”
Nainggolan touched on his disappointment that he wasn’t called up for the 2018 World Cup and his decision to retire.
“Yes. But that’s it. I miss it. It’s everybody’s dream to wear the shirt of their country. But when you make a decision, it’s hard to go back. I’d hardly come back.”
The Nerazzurri owned midfielder discussed a potential return to Roma.
“If the conditions were right I’d go back to Roma, I’ve lived wonderful years there. It’s a team where I’ve given everything. What do I miss most of all? The evenings. I’m kidding… I miss everything. I still write to my former teammates when I watch the games. It was a natural world for me there the way I lived and stayed. Then things happened… Let’s see. The door is always open. The derby in Rome is really different from the one in Milan, another thing. San Siro is beautiful, they do wonderful choreographies, but you don’t feel the Milan derby like you do in Rome during the week. There if you lose, they make fun of you even a month later. In Milan after the game it’s all over.”
Nainggolan touched on what he wants to do after he retires from football.
“I’d like to get out of it because of the way the world of football is and the way I am. But I’d like to help with the younger guys, work with the talents to give them a chance by following them. Coach? I could do that but I don’t know if I will be. In football I could also do it because I have a difficult character and the way I say things, too directly. As a coach I don’t know if I’d coach Juve or Lazio. I don’t think about being a coach right now.”
He spoke about his best goal ever.
“This year’s goal against SPAL for speed of execution but I’ve scored other good ones.”
Nainggolan discussed Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, who managed him at both Roma and Inter.
“For me he’s always the same. As coach on the pitch he’s the strongest I’ve had. The way he sees matches, his vision of football, the best for my vision of football. As a man he’s tough, before I was told he was different. When it comes to fighting, he also goes against the players, it’s part of his personality. Allegri was the first coach I had in Serie A, I didn’t like him a lot and I didn’t exactly understand his personal demands on me, but he made him play to his style. Conte, I lived with him for a month. Forget about the choices he made, but if he’s good it has to be admitted, he has an absurd mentality. In a month he said things to my face, it’s to be appreciated, as I like it. After a month the team had already understood him. The training sessions are heavy but you immediately realize what his idea is.”
He discussed some of his favourite players.
“Totti if you talk about the most obvious. But Dzeko is the complete player for me. Icardi was great in the area. Lautaro is physically strong, even if he’s shorter, he holds the ball up well and his technique is very strong.”
The Cagliari midfielder spoke about former Inter striker Ronaldo.
“I remember him at Real Madrid, when he was already weighed down, and he was doing great. He was really devastating. But I’d always choose Messi. He and CR7 are in a different category. Cristiano is a war machine, built, Messi is pure talent for me. Even in the cleanliness of touch, the way he holds the ball. Cristiano is now more of a first striker. At Manchester United he was a different man to the footballer he is now.”
He touched on which players bothered him the most in his career.
“I also remember the Treble winning Inter squad. Thiago Motta bounced past me with ease. Seedorf was was too strong physically and it was annoying to play against him. Handanovic is an incredible goalkeeper, especially for his tranquility when he plays. He’s also very effective with his feet, he does things that other goalkeepers don’t do either.”
Finally, Nainggolan spoke about a conversation he had with Miralem Pjanic when he told him that he was joining Juventus.
“That he was going to strengthen a team that was already winning, but our relationship has remained the same. Even when I played as a former player it was difficult for me to play against a team I care about, I’m sensitive about that, I care a lot about the clubs I’ve been to. But when you have to play you have to play, maybe apologize right away. You have to try and try and win.”