Cagliari President Tommaso Giulini compares Radja Nainggolan to Scudetto legend Gigi Riva and admits Nicolò Barella's transfer to Inter funded their revolution.
The Rossoblu are fourth in Serie A after 12 games and have been attracting plaudits from all sides. Now the President is comparing the Belgian playmaker with the greatest legend on the Island.
“Nainggolan is a huge injection of quality and character to the whole collective,” the President told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Despite having a different role, he has the same impact on the team as Gigi Riva had on his Cagliari.”
Riva was the superstar in Italy 49 years ago, when he won Cagliari's only Scudetto, two years after helping Azzurri claim their lone European Championship so far.
“Radja is an icon, even if I know it’s impossible to emulate what Riva did. I called him in July and told him I wanted to create a strong team, so I asked if he was willing to help me,” Giulini added.
“He told me: ‘President, give me a month to try and convince Antonio Conte, if I can’t do it, I’ll be at her place [his Sardinian wife Claudia] on August 1. He signed on August 4 and kept his word.”
Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog were also brought to the island this summer, from Boca Juniors and Napoli respectively. Their impact has been noted and now Giulini predicts a future in the Premier League for the Uruguayan 23-year-old.
“He was the most difficult signing,” Giulini admitted. “The negotiation with Boca was dragging on. I’m sure Nandez will become a top player. He is destined to play in the Premier League, he’s perfect for that championship. First, he must develop with us.”
However, the President revealed that he wouldn’t have been able to pick up any of the three midfielders unless he sold fan favourite Barella to Conte’s title contenders Inter.
“He was like my fifth child in these years, I’m sorry that I had to sell him,” Giulini added. “After losing him, I wanted to build an even stronger midfield. Then Rog, Nandez and Nainggolan arrived.
“To make the team competitive, you need a great coach and a great midfield. Today, I can say I have both.”
Giulini thanked both Inter and Barella for what they have done, to help Cagliari take a big step towards creating a competitive squad.
“Of course, the money helped us a lot. I thank him for what he did for us, and all the Cagliari fans should do the same. They should also thank Inter, who first felt they had paid too much for him. Then, you know, there’s a lucky President. The year Cagliari won the Scudetto, they sold Boninsegna to Inter and brought Domenghini, Gori and Poli. But don’t start writing about the dream of the Scudetto…”
Cagliari are back in action against Lecce after the international break, looking to continue their fight for a place in Europe next season.
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