Nainggolan returns to Cagliari

After just one year at Inter, Radja Nainggolan has left Inter to join Cagliari, the team that launched him in Italy, on a season-long loan. The midfielder lost a big supporter when Luciano Spalletti was axed and the new course led by Giuseppe Marotta and Antonio Conte decided to cut ties with players that have had behavioral issues in the past.

In reality, the 31-year-old Belgian did not have many issues of this kind in Milan. Last season, after an underwhelming first part where he was affected by muscular injuries and lack of conditioning, he got it going in the final months and ended up registering seven goals and three assists in 36 appearances in all competitions. He had moved to the Nerazzurri from Roma last summer for a €38M bid.

Nainggolan first transferred to Cagliari from Piacenza in January of 2010, when he was 22. He had constant growth in four years in Sardinia, where he went from a merely gritty and defensive-minded midfielder to a very complete player. He was then sold to the Giallorossi in 2014 and spent four and a half seasons in Italian Capital.

He obviously represents an ideal replacement for Nicolò Barella, who made the opposite route last month, in Rolando Maran’s schemes, and could fit either at no.10, where he has gotten a lot of experience in his last two stops, and as box-to-box. The Rossoblù are well stocked at both positions since they added Marko Rog from Napoli earlier in the window, they will have Lucas Castro back in full capacity after last year’s ACL tear and could give more room to Valter Birsa and Christian Oliva, on top of still having all of the other contributors from the last campaign.

Nainggolan spoke to Sky Sport and Tuttomercatoweb on Saturday at the airport: “I am happy. I do not know what to tell the Inter fans, I tried to let my performances on the pitch do the talking. I am serene, I go back to Cagliari with the intention of doing well. I had to make a decision between few offers and I listed to my heart. I have other priorities now. The team will celebrate its centenary and we will try to lift if up, they are building a quality squad. It was not a difficult choice.” He added: “I have two more years left on my contract after next season, maybe my time at Inter is not done. I do not know what happened, maybe I annoyed somebody.”

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