Radja Nainggolan has announced his retirement from international football after he was surprisingly left out of Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad for this summer’s World Cup.
The 30-year-old Roma midfielder took to Instagram shortly after Martinez confirmed his provisional squad, saying he ends his Belgium career ‘very reluctantly’.
Nainggolan, who has failed to see eye-to-eye with Martinez since the Spaniard took charge in August 2016, also hinted at a wider issue with the manager by adding that ‘being yourself can be bothering’.
He stated: ‘Very reluctantly my international career comes to an end. I’ve always done everthing [sic] I could to represent my country. Being yourself can be bothering. From this day on I will be the first fan.’
Martinez was happy to explain his decision to leave Nainggolan behind, claiming the decision was purely ‘tactical’ and that Roma’s defensive style of play counted against him when the squad was decided.
The former Everton and Wigan boss stated: ‘Radja Nainggolan is a top player. The reason is tactical,’ said Martinez.
‘In the past two years the team has worked in a specific manner. Other players had those roles.
‘We know Radja has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.’
Taking his place in Belgium’s midfield is a selection of other highly talented defensively-capable players.
Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele and Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini have both made the squad alongside Leander Dendoncker, Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans.
Despite a reputation as one of Europe’s fiercest midfielders, Nainggolan ends his Belgium career with a surprisingly low 29 caps to his name. He did not become a regular in the Red Devils squad until joining Roma from Cagliari in 2014.
Belgium pre-selection squad:
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Matz Sels (Newcastle United).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles FC), Christian Kabasele (Watford), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jordan Lukaku (Lazio), Thomas Meunier (Paris St-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian).
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United).