No Radja Nainggolan for Belgium!
A week after Belgium announced their World Cup squad, it remains a mystery how they could find no place for Radja Nainggolan.
The spiky haired midfielder has just come off a fine season for Roma, where he played in the Champions League semi-finals.
And, it remains possible that the exclusion of Radja Nainggolan will dominate the discussion around Belgium for the coming weeks in the lead-up to the World Cup.
On announcing the squad, Roberto Martinez explained that he sees Nainggolan as an attacking midfielder.
Since the Roma star won’t be in his first team, Martinez feared Nainggolan could disrupt morale.
Roberto Martinez explains Radja Nainggolan omission
In a new interview, detailed by Nieuwsblad, Roberto Martinez has gone into great length to explain why Nainggolan did not make the Belgium squad.
Martinez said: “Selecting Nainggolan would have been a big mistake.”
The Belgium boss continued: “I knew that the decision would not make me popular. It would be much easier to choose differently, but that would be a big mistake for everyone.”
Martinez: “I decide on the different roles that this group needs”
The former Wigan and Everton manager added: “The easiest thing would be to choose the 23 names everyone had expected in the outside world. But then you come to the World Cup to the conclusion that those players do not perform the way we want. I have to make difficult decisions, not because I like to do that. I decide on the basis of performance for the national team and on the basis of the different roles that this group needs.”
Martinez explained further: “I decide professionally and fairly on the basis of information that we have collected over a period of two years. Not on the basis of the last two or three weeks. It would be much easier to make a different decision, but that would ultimately have been a big mistake for everyone. It would not have been the right choice.”
Martinez did not stop there: “For the selection I use the structure of the Belgian Football Association. I rely on the information I have. In addition, you have to talk to trainers, with the people who work with our players every day. And then of course you also look at the role they can play in the national team. I do not select on the basis of names. I select players who can deliver a top performance for the national team. Some decisions do not make you popular, but that is the job of the national coach.”
Finally, Martinez said: “No matter how you turn or turn: there are players who deserve to play the World Cup, but will not make the selection. That’s how it works unfortunately. I can only take 23 players. We have now made a preselection of 28. There are still four or five young players who have actually shown enough to be there. And then there are some players who lose weight, just because you can only select a limited number.”
The answers from Martinez, whilst certainly lengthy remain curious. It is good news for England, but you have to wonder if Belgium will miss Radja Nainggolan at some point during Russia 2018.
Related: World Cup betting tips.