Ever since Antonio Conte was revealed to be Chelsea’s next head coach — so almost two years at this point — one of the names linked most consistently with the Blues has been AS Roma midfield Radja Nainggolan. However, the Belgium national team’s ‘Ninja’ was always understood to remain in the Italian capital as one of their best and most important players.
Radja was a Conte target in 2016. They had a meeting in a hotel, but Chelsea and Roma never reached an agreement, nor was Nainggolan that keen on a move to #cfc.— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) January 15, 2018
And yet, somehow that narrative has shifted in the last half-season, and now the Italian media is alive with rumors of his impending exit -- especially after Ninja was fined and suspended one game by the club for his ill-advised New Year’s video.
Here’s CalcioMercato relaying the news from Gazzetta, even claiming that a meeting on Friday had taken place to start finalizing a transfer that could happen “in the next few days”.
What is even stranger is that despite all those links with Chelsea and other big Premier League teams (Manchester United, for example), Nainggolan is apparently set to decamp to China this month, either permanently or on a loan-to-buy scheme. Certainly, if Guangzhou are offering €50m for a 29-year-old player (and another €12m or £200k/week to Nainggolan himself), we can see where the motivation might be to get this deal done for the Giallorossi.
Still, it would seem a rather unexpected conclusion to this off-and-on saga.