Radja Nainggolan has defended against criticism of his personality and lifestyle, claiming he is just a “normal” person.
Despite his talent, the Inter midfielder’s strong and unconventional character has made him a polarising figure during his time in Italy.
Nainggolan was keen to point out, although footballers do not have typical jobs, they do not have to lead atypical lives.
“I can tell you that I am just a normal person and not a bad boy as many people label me,” he told France Football. “I can walk about in the worst neighbourhoods and live in a normal way. I can accept the favours that are given to the players, but that does not mean that I look for them.
“I shop at the supermarket, I can drink and smoke a cigarette with serenity. Even a footballer can smoke, even if they do not have a ‘normal’ job.”
Growing up in Antwerp in a single parent household, under difficult circumstances, Nainggolan moved to Piacenza in 2005, before making his name in Serie A with Cagliari.
The former Belgian international took time to reflect on the hardship of his origins, along with how Italy has conditioned him as a footballer.
“In the early days at Piacenza, I earned a thousand euros a month but for me and my family that was a lot,” Nainggolan said. “I try to ensure a good standard of living for all my family members. I am inspired by my mother. She was the most important person in my life, she had nothing but she gave me everything by making a lot of sacrifices.”
“I am very proud of my origins even if they did not allow me to have an easy life. I feel originally from Antwerp while as a player I consider myself to be Italian from a technical and tactical point of view.
“I have many qualities but do not excel in any. My style allows me to give everything for my teammates.”
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