Given all the social media melodrama that occurred yesterday, stemming from Kevin Strootman’s farewell to Antonio Rüdiger, in which he included a postscript hoping that this was indeed the last goodbye of the summer, which was made worse by Radja Nainggolan’s seemingly “I don’t know” comment, which was worse still by Mohamed Salah when he suggest that maybe it’s time for Nainggolan’s goodbye. Salah may have also told someone about Nainggolan’s secret crush during study hall. I don’t know, we can’t be sure.
Considering all that mishegoss, it was only fitting that Monday kicked off with a fresh set of rumors revolving around Nainggolan and his future in the Eternal City. For the past two summers, if not more, we’ve had to endure an unwavering storm of transfer stories about Roma’s beloved number four. And while trends such as those are always unnerving, at least those rumors pointed offshore, towards the Premiership. Sometimes players just want to test themselves on the game’s biggest (but not best) stage; there’s not much you can do about that.
But when those rumors remain in-house, the knife twists a bit deeper; a crisis in which we currently find ourselves. With Luciano Spalletti moving to Inter Milan this summer, and turning it into the Roma he always wanted at Roma, we’ve seen some intermittent stories about Spalletti attempting to reunite with Nainggolan. For a variety of reasons it makes complete sense; it was under Spalletti that Nainggolan reached his greatest heights, moving up the pitch and throwing up career numbers in several categories. So Inter’s ambition is clear, Nainggolan is the final piece of their already impressive puzzle, and for Radja himself, it would offer his best chance to replicate last season’s impressive performance.
But what about Roma? Would they really part with a man who, after Daniele De Rossi, is the virtual heart and soul of this club? A man who, on more than one occasion, has told Juventus to hit the bricks? Even if you set all his emotional and psychological contributions to the team aside, there’s the simple fact that he’s Roma’s best player by a country mile. Is that something they’d part with so easily?
With rumors floating around that Roma had to clear €100 million in debt rather than the generally accepted €30 million, coupled with the fact that Nainggolan is already 29-years-old, the €60 million rumors, and the chance that Roma buckles, makes more sense.
We mentioned it sort of haphazardly a couple weeks ago, but for all of the supermarket talk and all the kvetching we’ve done around here about Salah, Rüdiger and Leandro Paredes, this would be the litmus test...this would reveal the club’s true intentions.
For a fanbase that revels in their provincial bride, turning that pejorative into a badge of honor, when an outsider comes along and embraces all that makes the club so special, and does it so fully and without question, they reach an exalted status. And while they’re not Roman by blood, they’ve achieved that same eternal status by order of merit and sincerity of spirit.
Perhaps no outsider in club history has captured and embodied that unique position more than Radja Nainggolan, but can you really put a price on that?
We may soon find out...