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Nainggolan: a closer look

Nainggolan: a closer look


Nainggolan. Spelled with one n and two g’s. His first name is Radja, and he’s the new acquisition for Roma’s midfield. The "Ninja", who turns 26 on May 4, is a utility midfielder who certainly doesn’t shy away from physical play, and with his ability to both defend and attack it’s no surprise he led his ex-team Cagliari in shots on goal this season. He can play in the center of midfield, shielding the defense, or alongside the regista. In short, he brings tremendous versatility to the midfield role.

Nainggolan was born in Antwerp to a father of Indonesian origin and a Belgian mother and took his first steps as a player in Germinal Beerschot’s youth system. In 2005 he transferred to Piacenza where, after an initial period with the Primavera, he earned a starting role with the first team. It was coach Giuseppe Iachini who gave him his professional debut in the Serie B on May 28, 2006 in the final game of the season: Piacenza 2-3 Arezzo, with Radja coming on for Tommaso Bianchi in the 74th minute. In 2008 Stefano Pioli took over the helm at the club, and the youngster with a peculiar name continued to show well, especially in terms of the personality he exhibited on the field. 

Cagliari were the quickest to notice his quality and win his signature in the January transfer market of 2010. Nainggolan truly came into his own in Sardinia, with 131 appearances and 7 goals. Next to follow was a call-up to the Belgian national team on May 29, 2009 in a Kirin Cup match against Chile. He notched his first Serie A goal on October 31, 2010 against Bologna; a stunning volley that left goalkeeper Viviano helpless. Roma even got a taste of his footballing prowess as well at the Stadio Olimpico on February 1, 2013; the Sardinians won 2-4, and it was the Belgian who opened the scoring. But there’s no more risk of that happening, as Nainggolan is now a Roma player.


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