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Radja Nainggolan (born 4 May 1988) is a Belgian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Italian club Cagliari on loan from Inter Milan.

Radja Nainggolan
2017 RUS v BEL exhibition - Radja Nainggolan.jpg
Nainggolan in 2017
Personal information
Full name Radja Nainggolan
Date of birth (1988-05-04) 4 May 1988 (age 31)
Place of birth Antwerp, Belgium
Height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)[1]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Cagliari (on loan from Inter Milan)
Number 4
Youth career
2000–2005 Germinal Beerschot
2005–2007 Piacenza
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2006–2010 Piacenza 71 (4)
2010Cagliari (loan) 7 (0)
2010–2014 Cagliari 124 (7)
2014Roma (loan) 17 (2)
2014–2018 Roma 138 (26)
2018– Inter Milan 29 (6)
2019–Cagliari (loan) 0 (0)
National team
2004 Belgium U16 1 (0)
2007 Belgium U19 2 (0)
2008–2009 Belgium U20 2 (0)
2007–2010 Belgium U21 13 (1)
2009–2018 Belgium 30 (6)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 26 May 2019

Nicknamed Il Ninja,[2] he spent his entire professional career in Italy, representing Piacenza, Cagliari, Roma and Inter Milan and making over 300 Serie A appearances.

A Belgium international for eight years, Nainggolan played 30 times for his country (scoring six goals) and represented it at Euro 2016.

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Nainggolan was born in Antwerp, the son of Lizy Bogaerts, a Belgian of Flemish ethnicity who raised him with his three half brothers and his twin sister,[3][4] and Marianus Nainggolan, an Indonesian of Batak background and member of the Batak Christian Protestant Church.[5] His father abandoned the family when he was just a child.[6]

Nainggolan's mother died in 2010,[7] and after her death he tattooed two large wings on his back with her dates of birth and death.[6][8] He was raised Roman Catholic and spoke Dutch, English and Italian fluently, as well as understanding French.[9][10]

Club careerEdit

PiacenzaEdit

Nainggolan began playing football with Tubantia Borgerhout at the age of 5.[11] Seven years later he moved to the youth team of Germinal Beerschot, where he remained until 2005,[12] when he was noted by Alessandro Beltrami and moved to Italian Serie B club Piacenza. He made his senior debut on 28 May 2006, during a home defeat to Arezzo, being inserted permanently into the first team the following season.

In the 2008–09 campaign, Nainggolan became a starter for the Emilia-Romagna side, playing 38 of 42 games and scoring three goals, which contributed to them avoiding relegation.

CagliariEdit

On 27 January 2010, Nainggolan was loaned to Cagliari with a buyout clause.[13] He made his Serie A debut on 7 February, playing seven minutes in a 0–3 away loss against Inter Milan.[14] After making seven appearances (including being sent off a few minutes after entering the field on 28 February against Chievo Verona),[15] the club announced it had acquired 50% of his rights in a co-ownership deal.[16]

In the first part of 2010–11, under manager Pierpaolo Bisoli, Nainggolan started often due to the absence of Daniele Conti. On 31 October 2010 he scored his first goal in the Italian top level, from a right-footed volley in a 2–0 home win over Bologna.[17] On 31 January 2011, Cagliari redeemed the second half of his contract from Piacenza.[18]

In early October 2013, after three seasons as an undisputed first-choice,[19] Nainggolan agreed to an extension until 2016.[20] His performances with the Rossoblu made him especially popular among their fans, who named him in a top 11 list comprising the best players in the history of the Sardinian club.[21]

RomaEdit

 
Nainggolan playing for Roma in 2014

On 7 January of the following year, Nainggolan was loaned to fellow league team Roma until the end of the campaign for a fee of 3 million, with an option to purchase 50% of his rights in the ensuing summer for €6 million.[22][23] He made his debut two days later, starting in a 1–0 home win over Sampdoria for the Coppa Italia which qualified to the quarter-finals.[24] In the same competition, he also helped dispose of Juventus in said stage by playing the full 90 minutes 12 days later.[25]

On 22 February 2014, Nainggolan scored his first goal for the capital side, grabbing the 1–0 winner against Bologna.[26] His second, which arrived on 19 April against Fiorentina (same result) ensured his team automatic qualification to the UEFA Champions League.[27]

Nainggolan signed a permanent deal with Roma in the 2015 off-season, for €9 million.[28] On 6 July of the following year he renewed his contract until June 2020,[29][30] extending it a further year the following summer.[31]

Inter MilanEdit

On 26 June 2018, Nainggolan signed with Inter Milan for €38 million (€24 million plus Davide Santon and Nicolò Zaniolo, valued at €14 million)[32] until June 2022.[33] He scored in his league debut on 1 September, helping the visitors defeat Bologna 3–0.[34]

On 3 October 2018, Nainggolan scored the equaliser in a 2–1 comeback win at PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League group stage to become the first-ever Belgian to achieve the feat in the competition for Inter.[35][36] In August 2019, he returned to Cagliari on a season-long loan.[37]

International careerEdit

 
Nainggolan in action for Belgium under-21s in 2009

Nainggolan earned his first cap for Belgium on 29 May 2009, against Chile in the Kirin Cup.[38] He scored his first goal for the Red Devils on 5 March 2014, in a 2–2 friendly draw with Côte d'Ivoire.[27]

On 13 May 2014, Nainggolan was selected in a standby list for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.[39][40] He did not make the final cut, however.

Nainggolan was an undisputed starter for the Marc Wilmots-led Red Devils during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying campaign,[41] scoring in an away draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina[42] and a 4–1 win in Andorra as the team qualified for the tournament for the first time in 16 years.[43]

Nainggolan was selected to the finals in France.[44] He made his debut in the tournament on 13 June, playing 62 minutes in a 0–2 loss against Italy.[45] After featuring as a second-half substitute in the second game, a 3–0 defeat of the Republic of Ireland,[46] he returned to the starting XI against Sweden, scoring the game's only goal at the Stade de Nice after a counter-attack to send his country to the knockout stage as second;[47] in the quarter-finals, he netted from 25 metres to put his country ahead against Wales after 12 minutes, but in an eventual 1–3 loss.[48]

On 26 August 2017, aged 29, Nainggolan announced that he would be retiring from international football after not being selected for Belgium's upcoming World Cup qualifiers, and stated that he would be focusing on his club career with Roma.[49][50] However, he was selected by new manager Roberto Martínez for friendlies against Mexico and Japan in November,[51] only to pull out due to injury.[52]

On 21 May 2018, after once again not being picked for the upcoming World Cup in Russia, Nainggolan retired from the international scene.[53] Due to his father, he was also eligible to represent Indonesia.[54]

Style of playEdit

Considered by many experts to be one of the best and most complete midfielders in Europe, due to his ability to aid his team both offensively and defensively, Nainggolan is a quick, dynamic, hard-working, physically strong and versatile midfielder, who is capable of playing in several midfield positions; possessing good vision, passing range, and technique, he is often used as a playmaker in front of his team's defensive line.[55][56][57][58][59][60] He is also known for his attacking drive, ability to get forward and eye for goal from midfield, courtesy of his powerful and accurate striking ability from distance, as well as his movement and ability to make late attacking runs off the ball; his talent, energy, skill, and wide range of attributes led to him being used in a more offensive role as an advanced playmaker behind the two forwards during his time with Cagliari.[56][57][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68]

Due to his pace, stamina, tenacity and aggressive tackling, as well as his willingness and ability to chase down and press opponents off the ball, Nainggolan is also a good ball-winner, and has frequently been used in a box-to-box role;[55][56][57][61][69][70] he is also capable of playing as a winger.[71] After his move to Roma, he was mainly deployed as a central or defensive midfielder in a 4–3–3 formation, and, on occasion, even as a right-back; following the arrival of Luciano Spalletti, however, he returned to playing in a more advanced role as an attacking midfielder or second striker in a 4–2–3–1 or a 3–4–2–1 formation.[56][61][69][70][72][73] He has also been used in a more central, attacking role, on occasion.[62]

In addition to his footballing abilities, Nainggolan has also been praised for his leadership in the media.[74]

Outside of footballEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Nainggolan married Claudia Lai,[75] with the couple being parents to daughters Aysha (b. 2012) and Mailey (b. 2016).[76] His twin sister, Riana, is also a footballer.[77]

On 10 July 2019, Lai confirmed in an Instagram post that she had been diagnosed with cancer and would begin chemotherapy treatment.[78]

ControversyEdit

Nainggolan smoked cigarettes during his playing career.[79] On New Year's Eve 2018, he became the subject of strong controversy in Italy after he posted a video on Instagram cursing, drinking alcohol and smoking.[80]

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

As of match played 26 May 2019[81][82]
Club Season League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Piacenza 2005–06 Serie B 1 0 0 0 1 0
2006–07 1 0 0 0 1 0
2007–08 10 0 1 0 11 0
2008–09 38 3 1 0 39 3
2009–10 21 1 1 0 22 1
Total 71 4 3 0 74 4
Cagliari 2009–10 Serie A 7 0 0 0 7 0
2010–11 36 2 2 0 38 2
2011–12 37 1 2 0 39 1
2012–13 34 2 1 0 35 2
2013–14 17 2 1 0 18 2
Total 131 7 6 0 137 7
Roma (loan) 2013–14 Serie A 17 2 3 0 20 2
Roma 2014–15 35 5 2 0 9 0 46 5
2015–16 35 6 0 0 7 0 42 6
2016–17 37 11 4 2 12 1 53 14
2017–18 31 4 0 0 11 2 42 6
Total 155 28 9 2 39 3 203 33
Inter Milan 2018–19 Serie A 29 6 1 0 6 1 36 7
Career total 376 45 19 2 45 4 450 51

InternationalEdit

Source:[83][84]

National team Year Apps Goals
Belgium 2009 1 0
2011 1 0
2012 1 0
2013 1 0
2014 4 2
2015 9 2
2016 9 2
2017 3 0
2018 1 0
Total 30 6

International goalsEdit

As of match played 1 July 2016 (Belgium score listed first, score column indicates score after each Nainggolan goal)[83]
International goals by date, venue, cap, opponent, score, result and competition
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition
1 5 March 2014 King Baudouin, Brussels, Belgium 5   Ivory Coast 2–0 2–2 Friendly
2 13 October 2014 Bilino Polje, Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina 8   Bosnia and Herzegovina 1–1 1–1 UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying
3 7 June 2015 Stade de France, Paris, France 11   France 3–0 4–3 Friendly
4 10 October 2015 Estadi Nacional, Andorra la Vella, Andorra 15   Andorra 1–0 4–1 UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying
5 22 June 2016 Stade de Nice, Nice, France 22   Sweden 1–0 1–0 UEFA Euro 2016
6 1 July 2016 Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France 24   Wales 1–0 1–3 UEFA Euro 2016

HonoursEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit