Antonio Conte has his opinions and they often are immovable and steadfast. It is this part of him that makes him so successful, he simply believes in himself. It is hard to argue with the Inter coach and his CEO Beppe Marotta, as the decision to oust Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic has been completely justified. The dressing room seems unified and they now are in a title race. However, could the Nerazzurri possibly have made a mistake with Radja Nainggolan?
There is no hiding that Conte was trying hard to pursue Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal this January. The coach wanted to add some aggression and quality to the centre of the field. He wanted a player who could break up play, start the counter-attack and be a nuisance in the opposition half. He wanted a player who had character and whose willingness to fight would be infectious, but this did not come to pass.
It is perhaps strange however, that Conte was looking for what he already possessed. Radja Nainggolan is exactly in this mould (and no, it is not just because he has similar hair and body art). Nainggolan has been in blistering form since returning to Cagliari. His five goals and four assists in 20 games have come from him operating between a deep lying midfielder and an offensive playmaker. He is motivated and looks in good shape, relishing life back in Sardinia. Things are working out for Nainggolan and could get even better. Maybe his team deserves betting on them in the future games, which means that you can make use of the various betting sites bonus offers found online.
Professionalism has been an issue, that is true. His car crashes, nights out and smoking are well documented, but Vidal is no innocent either. He too has written off a Ferrari in the early hours of the morning. Why would Conte go for him then when he is purging unprofessionalism elsewhere? Perhaps Vidal changed, but perhaps so has Nainggolan? His wife, Claudia Lai, has been battling cancer and this is a huge reason why Radja returned to Sardinia, her hometown. If an event like this cannot focus the mind, then little else can.
Perhaps the argument against a return to Inter is exactly a focusing of the mind. Perhaps Radja sees football now as secondary and that he may want to stay in Cagliari with his wife and enjoy his success with the Sardinian faithful. Why add the pressure and stress of Milan? Why not be the big fish in the small pond? One reason is funding, as President Tommaso Giulini has spoken about the difficulty of retaining the player after the end of his loan spell.
This Nainggolan would undoubtedly be useful for Conte’s Inter, but they’ve put themselves in a situation where taking a step back might seem like admitting a mistake, something neither want to do.
There is still a possibility that the midfielder may return. He certainly has no problems with Conte and recently spoke of the fact that he thought he was “a real man” who said things to his face. Perhaps, if the ‘Mister’ can see that the midfielder has improved both on and off the field then there will be a reunion.
Radja certainly still has the relationship with the Inter fans and thanked them for their support on social media after their Coppa Italia defeat. Perhaps it will take a big performance today against his parent club to really convince the powers that be, to think of him as part of their plans. From the outside, it seems criminal that Inter are looking for something they already have. He fits in perfectly at Cagliari, a club that probably cannot afford to keep him.
Some things are much bigger than football and the hope is that wherever Nainggolan next lays his hat, he feels at home.