AS Roma Made A Huge Mistake Letting Radja Nainggolan Go
Radja Nainggolan had been one of the most consistent central midfielders in Serie A over the past decade. He broke through with Cagliari and spent the past four years with AS Roma, where he reached a new pinnacle. However, Nainggolan won't pull on the Giallorossi shirt again. The former Belgium international, who retired from the national team when Roberto Martinez left him out of the World Cup squad, had been vocal regarding his desire to play with a bigger club or in a more competitive league. His mistake in the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Liverpool seemed to be the final nail in his coffin, the relationship between the Belgian midfielder and the Roma fanbase broken beyond repair.
Fast forward a few more months and Nainggolan is gone. After weeks of talks with Inter, the Nerazzurri have won his signature. It isn't a more competitive league but it is a slightly bigger club. He will be under contract until June 2022. Official numbers have not been released, but it is believed the deal included a €24 million fee and two players: 27-year-old left-back Davide Santon and 18-year-old midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo. The teenager is expected to become Nainggolan’s long-term replacement within the next few seasons.
Roma decided to part ways with Nainggolan for a different reason than their fans. Il Lupi wanted to sign Javier Pastore from Paris Saint-Germain, were underfunded and had to sell a top player to make the deal.
We can wait and see whether this was a mistake, but at least on paper, there is no question Roma made the wrong decision. They could have sold anyone else. For example, centre-back Kostas Manolas. Eusebio de Francesco has depth at the position. Diego Perotti or Stephan El Shaarawy would have been similarly excellent options thanks to Cengiz Under's emergence. Instead, the club undervalued perhaps their most important player.
Nainggolan was important not only because of what he meant to the team but for the simple reason no other player in the Roma squad can do what he does on the pitch. The tattooed, chain-smoking, mohawked rebel is a box-to-box midfielder who can thrive going forward without forsaking his defensive responsibility. He is Arturo Vidal stuffed into a smaller, more colourful package.
Pastore is a more attacking-minded player who, even though he can operate as a central midfielder, fits better as an attacking midfielder or on the wing. He is expected to fill the former role with Roma.
It may happen thatNainggolan does not fit at Inter after all. He may be a disappointment. Maybe Roma finds another player who can fill his role while Zaniolo matures. Maybe he becomes an afterthought only a few months into the season. And maybe Willy Caballero was the right choice to play goal for Argentina in this World Cup.
Roma made a huge mistake by showing Nainggolan the door. He still has miles left in him. There is no question the team will miss him greatly.