Cagliari midfielder Radja Nainggolan wants to "prove Inter wrong" and put Belgium behind him, but admits he will never get rid of the ‘troublemaker’ reputation.
When Antonio Conte arrived at San Siro, the Belgian midfielder’s time was up with the Nerazzurri and he surprisingly chose former club Cagliari.
The Rossoblu have started the season in impressive fashion, currently sitting fourth in Serie A after an unbeaten run of 11 games.
“I want to prove to Inter that they made a mistake,” he told Eleven Sports. “I’m playing well, and the results are good for Cagliari. It’s a big victory for me, even if I don’t want to celebrate too early.
“As soon as you have been stamped with a label, it’s stuck there. I read that Sven Nys couldn’t believe that I was smoking, but how can a cyclist say something about a football player? They sit on the bike for seven hours; I must run for an hour and a half. It’s not comparable.
“There are so many players who smoke. When we went out with the national team, I was often with six or seven players, but the only one they saw smoking was me.”
He admitted that he has matured during a tough period in the family but revealed “everything is going well” for his wife – who was diagnosed with cancer last summer.
“I have calmed down a little,” he said. “I have more responsibility towards my children. I’m trying to be with them a little more now that my wife is fighting cancer. Fortunately, everything is going well for her.”
The Belgian has retired from international football after some problems between him and the coach Roberto Martinez, but he claimed he wouldn’t go back even if they change boss.
“I made a choice and thought about it for a long time,” he said. “Whether or not another coach arrives, it doesn’t matter anymore.
“Before the World Cup, Martinez told me he couldn’t give me the role I had for Roma. I played in a Champions League semi-final that season. For me, it ended there. I never heard anything after that.”