Radja Nainggolan hit out at Monchi for “dismantling” Roma, discussed controversy on and off the field, his reputation and why “being yourself is setting the best example.”
He was pushed out of Inter this summer, just one year after confirming he’d been shoved towards the Roma exit by then-director of sport Monchi.
“It’s a real pity and frankly very strange, reaching the Champions League semi-final and then dismantling the squad. I was convinced at the time that Eusebio Di Francesco didn’t want me, in agreement with Monchi. Instead, Di Francesco called me when he took over at Sampdoria and said we could ‘enjoy ourselves’ there.
“You can see Monchi’s work in Italy didn’t exactly go well. He fits in at Sevilla, but Roma was not his world, as he left after five months and within two days had already signed for Sevilla.
“I didn’t expect it, as I really believed I had a good rapport with Monchi. He’d ask me off the record what I thought of this or that player.
“I remain very fond of Roma and many of the players, so obviously I’m cheering them on against Lazio this weekend. When I first arrived at Roma, I developed a great rapport with Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti. I saw them from Cagliari and thought they looked like a couple of bosses who would shut me up.
“Instead, they are the first to welcome you to the club. Francesco seems to always be joking, but he is really shy. Daniele talked more than anyone in the dressing room and is more outgoing, whereas Totti is a leader on the field.
“I think De Rossi will have a great career as a Coach in future, as he has this enormous football brain. It wouldn’t be easy for him to be a success at Roma, as it’s never simple when you’ve been a player at the same squad for many years.”
When he did have to leave, Nainggolan reunited with former Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti at Inter.
“He didn’t have the right support from me on the field, partly due to injuries. He would always tell me that I was like a turbine engine, I’d go in fits and starts. He invented the idea of playing me further forward and I really enjoyed my football with him.
“Spalletti likes me, but he never let me get away with anything. We were losing 1-0 in Turin one day and I was putting in a dreadful performance. I was there, leaning over, and he threw a bottle of water at me. I said nothing, I am not the kind of player who creates controversy in public. Problems are to be resolved behind closed doors.”
Yet controversy has often followed Nainggolan, with suggestions his partying lifestyle makes him a ‘bad example’ for children.
“I don’t have to be a good example for any children other than my own. I think being yourself is the best example in a world full of fakes and people who kiss up to the powerful.
“I like a drink every now and then, but I know when to do it and when not to. I don’t hurt anyone if I spend a night out with my friends, as long as I do my work well.
“I ignore the criticism. I know my body, so if it doesn’t react the way it should, I will listen to it and stop. Right now, I feel great. I don’t think I’ll carry on until I’m 40, but a good four or five years, I hope. After that, I might go into fashion, as I already have a store in Rome.
“Staying in football probably isn’t for me. There are too many frauds out there. I certainly couldn’t be a pundit or commentator, as I couldn’t tear my former teammates apart. Best to avoid that situation.
“I never got into a fight with any of my teammates, I swear. Maybe a little discussion, but never a full-blown row. I even still keep in contact with my teammates from the Piacenza days.
“My priority is to make people feel happy and at ease. I had nothing from life and I don’t forget that. There are players who are transformed when they step on to the pitch. Daniele Conti was an annoying opponent, but that was just his style of playing. Senad Lulic was forever trying to spark a war during games, but then I met him with Edin Dzeko on a flight and he was lovely.”
Nainggolan is considered a troublemaker by directors and some Coaches, including Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.
“When I see things aren’t right, I prefer to just cut loose. Martinez did have the balls to visit me in Rome, but he never gave me an acceptable explanation. He just said there was no role for me in the national team, that he didn’t see me as a first choice and did not want trouble.
“I would’ve gladly been the reserve in the World Cup squad. I appreciate you telling me the situation, but not with that explanation. I never asked any Coach to be first choice.”
Nainggolan was asked where he sees himself in 20 years.
“I really don’t know. I’ll be a father to my daughters, give them the time I haven’t been able to so far. I am greedy for life and want to experience it to the max.”