Conte steering me to join Blues: Nainggolan

PARIS • Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan has said that Antonio Conte, the Italy coach who will take over at Chelsea after Euro 2016, has spoken to him in a bid to persuade him to swop the Italian Serie A for the English Premier League as doubts surround his future at AS Roma.

The 28-year-old was an early target for Conte once it was confirmed the Italian would move to London next season, with Roma's sporting director Walter Sabatini entering talks over a potential fee for the combative midfielder.

The Italian club made it clear that they are reluctant sellers and would seek at least £32 million (S$62.7 million), with Chelsea subsequently seeing an opening offer of £23 million plus performance- related bonuses knocked back.

The player has since gone public stating his desire to stay in Rome - he had initially moved to Italy as a 17-year-old, spending time at Piacenza and Cagliari before moving to Roma two years ago - to leave Chelsea concerned over the success of their pursuit.

Yet, before Monday's Euro 2016 game against Conte's Italy in Lyon, Nainggolan said that his Belgium team-mates who play for Chelsea, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, are persuading him to join the Blues.

He said: "(Conte) already wanted me when he was the Juve manager, but I'd already said I would never leave Roma for Juve. Now he tries to get me to Chelsea.

Midfielder Radja Nainggolan said that his fellow Belgians Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have advised him to join them at Chelsea.
Midfielder Radja Nainggolan said that his fellow Belgians Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have advised him to join them at Chelsea.

"Conte told me what he expects from me and what type of player I can be for him. I'll never be a player who'll score 20 goals or give 20 assists, I'm not the one who'll be in the picture all the time, but I can be important for a team.

"A manager who appreciates that is important for me. Hazard and Courtois have also told me to join them."

Besides Nainggolan's hefty transfer fee, he insists that his wages will also have to be substantial.

"I have to take several things into account," he said. "It's not easy to leave Italy behind after 12 years. I need to become better through a transfer, in all ways, so I won't leave for a small difference.

"People have already been saying for 10 years that I will be joining this team or that team, but I've only played for three clubs so far. You could say: Why not try it in England? But you can ask the question the other way too: Why would I leave everything behind to fail over there?"

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Conte steering me to join Blues: Nainggolan'. Print Edition | Subscribe