After such a lousy season at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will be linked to all sorts of players this summer. One that we've been connected to since the Antonio Conte whispers began, however, is Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who we might already be in negotiations over.
Nainggolan is an interesting target, both because he's very different to anything we currently have in the midfield, and he'd be able to fill a number of roles in the side. The 27-year old Belgian has spent his entire club career in Italy, with stops at Piacenza and Cagliari before his 2014 move to Roma.
Nainggolan isn't a flashy player, and won't score a ton of goals, but he might be exactly the sort of addition that Antonio Conte needs to give himself some tactical versatility, which we've lacked for most of this season. He can play in any number of midfield roles, as a lone holder, as part of a pivot, on either side of a diamond, and even out wide. He's probably capable of filling in as a wingback or as a fullback, as well, though he hasn't ever been asked to do so at Roma, as far as I know.
Radja is known for his high-energy, tough tackling approach to the game, making him somewhat similar to what we've seen out of guys like Ramires and Michael Essien at the Bridge. He doesn't have the same sort of top end speed as the Brazilian, but seems to have a far better understanding of the game, from what I've seen of him.
Aside from perpetually being in motion, there's no part of the Roma man's game that really sticks out at you. He's a high percentage passer, but that's largely because he keeps things simple, as opposed to trying passes he's unable to pull off. He'll take a shot or two every match, usually somewhere around the edge of the box when the defense leaves him alone. He's good at finding spaces like those, but won't often make runs deep into the box that leave acres of empty space behind him.
While his offensive contributions are usually limited to being a safe option to keep the ball moving, defensively, he's a machine. He's an excellent tackler and cuts out an awful lot of passes, something we've been missing for most of the season with the sale of Ramires, and inexplicable decline of Nemanja Matic. The Belgian picks up an ungodly number of yellow cards, likely because he's always in the middle of things, but never seems to pick up a second booking, and a sending off.
As far as I'm concerned, Radja Nainggolan would be an absolutely fantastic addition to the Chelsea squad, even if he's nowhere near as exciting as someone like Romelu Lukaku or Paul Pogba. With Ramires struggling with injury for most of the last 12 months he was with the Blues, and both Oscar and Matic looking like shells of the players they once were, the club haven't had the sort of player that could close down space in the midfield when Cesc Fabregas decides to go on walkabout. Nainggolan would certainly give us that guy, without the head-scratching moments we often got from Ramires, and would still be a useful asset even if Oscar and Matic both remain, and remember how to play.
If Roma are, indeed, willing to let the Belgian leave, he'd be a perfect addition to the squad. Here's hoping...