The reaction when Radja Nainggolan was left out of Belgium’s World Cup squad is a sure indicator of the player’s ability. The shock was evident, as the powerful midfielder has been a key component of Roma’s success this season. It is true that he is not perfect and certain aspects off his off-field pastimes may raise an eyebrow, but that is why joining Inter under a Coach that knows him looks like an excellent move. For the Nerazzurri too, the transfer could offer a cheaper option to Rafinha which would suit their current financial climate.
The Belgian midfielder is reportedly heading to Milan as long as the final transfer fee can be settled on. Personal terms are said to have been agreed, with the only sticking point being whether the Giallorossi will accept the €25m, plus a player from Inter’s talented Primavera squad.
This week a potential obstacle emerged, as UEFA’s ruling on Inter’s Financial Fair Play situation potentially threatened to upset the deal. The Nerazzurri had agreed that they would continue to balance the books and make sure that sales of other assets would offset any purchase.
The other worry would be the reduction of their Champions League squad size, from 25 to 22 players. It has been confirmed however, that Nainggolan would be included on the UEFA list and be eligible for the competition as long as Inter make a sale of equal value (individually or collectively). With Joao Mario, Gabriel Barbosa, Yuto Nagatomo, Eder, Jonathan Biabiany and the fact that Valencia has purchased Geoffrey Kondogbia, this seems possible.
Another upside of this is that the Belgian will be cheaper than purchasing Rafinha, who has been excellent for the Nerazzurri in the second half of the season. The €40m tag had seemingly been off-putting, despite the club wanting to make his move permanent.
Spalletti instead will reunite with a player who he coached at Roma to great effect. In the Eternal City, the former Roma boss used an interchangeable 3-4-2-1/4-2-3-1 with Nainggolan sitting behind Edin Dzeko in a hybrid No 10 role.
He moved the Belgian from the left-hand side and asked him to sit in behind the striker, with his main task being to supply the wide men and the Bosnian front man. This worked to an unprecedented level, as he became the anthesis of the modern-day midfielder. He was well rounded, athletic, strong, had good technique and an eye for goal. His ball recovery and his domination of central areas will be a huge asset to Inter and Mauro Icardi will certainly get supply.
Inter have for some time now often seen the play break down in the midfield areas and the passing has been too slow, allowing the opposition to regroup. This is why Rafinha has invigorated Spalletti’s side after the January arrival, as he could create something out of nothing, but Nainggolan arguably offers the same, if not more.
The fact that upon receiving the ball he doesn’t panic and has the vision and composure to make the right decision, will give the Nerazzurri a different aspect to their game and his enjoyment of shooting from distance will help take some of the burden off Mauro Icardi. Last season he managed six goals and 11 assists, but the year before he scored 12 times and assisted seven. When you consider all of his other qualities and the responsibility he takes, this is not a bad return.
If Inter can get this signing over the line then Spalletti will have a player he can trust, knows how to handle and who is fresh from the lack of a World Cup.
The price may have to be raised somewhat, but the recent reports show that it is within the Nerazzurri’s reach. Should the Belgian swap Rome for Milan this summer then Inter will go into next season looking much stronger than in previous years, especially with their other signings so far.