Roma drop Radja Nainggolan for game after breaking team rules at party
Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has been dropped for their clash with Atalanta on Saturday after breaking club rules on New Year’s Eve.
The Belgian posted a video of himself in a drunken state on Instagram after celebrating the New Year with friends. He apologised the following day and has been present in training since, but he fell foul of club rules and has consequently been punished.
“Before you ask me about Radja, I’ll tell you about it,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said at the start of a news conference on Friday. “What I have to say is important, but the game against Atalanta is even more important.
“Given the club’s policies, and these are completely shared by me, and shared and accepted — and I repeat the word ‘accepted’ — by the player, who will not be called up to play Atalanta tomorrow.
“This is down to him breaking a kind of conduct which has got to be constant for everybody at AS Roma or anybody who represents AS Roma, who makes determined errors, which are unacceptable.
“Anybody who makes a mistake, even minimally, will pay in the same way. This is our policy. All I will say is that Radja will not be called up.”
Di Francesco added that Nainggolan had not just stepped marginally out of line, but overstepped it by a considerable distance, while he condemned his conduct.
“I’ve never experienced a situation like this before, no,” he said. “Radja knows what he’s done. Furthermore, if somebody comes and takes a picture of you doing something [wrong], that’s one thing, but filming yourself doing it is even worse.
“We all know he’s taking responsibility. Football now is different and the way of thinking is different; players think differently and coaches think differently.”
Di Francesco added that his players therefore need to be careful with social media, since once something is published, it will spread immediately, while he also defended his and the club’s decision not to make their punishment known until Friday’s news conference.
“It’s not like I have to send you all a message when we decide something,” he said. “Now was the right time since I’m here for a news conference. You need to ponder things and work out why these things happen, which is one thing — especially when it is an anomalous situation like this.
“Whether we took this decision now or days ago doesn’t matter. We’ve taken this decision now. We are part of a group, all trying to imbue a mentality, which I hope will be a winning one, and this includes people’s behaviour.”
Teammate Kostas Manolas hopes everybody will soon forget about Nainggolan’s front-page headlines and focus more on seeing his name on the back pages.
“Radja knows he’s made a mistake and he’s apologised,” Manolas told Sky Sport Italia. “He’s a champion, though, and we need him. I’m sure he’s already put what happened behind him and is focusing only on our next challenge.”
That, for Nainggolan, will be the trip to Inter Milan on Jan. 21.
Di Francesco’s insistence on stressing how Nainggolan had accepted his punishment should allay fears that the Belgian will be sold this winter, amid renewed links with a move to Chelsea.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.