Welcome to our Radja Nainggolan 2020/21 report card. As part of our post-season coverage, we’ll be dishing out grades and analyzing every Inter player’s season.
Going into the start of the 2020/21 season, a line of Inter’s midfield corps would have stretched all the way across the Giuseppe Meazza pitch. On paper the Nerazzurri looked unbeatable in the center of the pitch, boasting incredible depth. Naturally, things didn’t turn out the way optimistic preseason expectations would have dictated. Only Eriksen, Brozovic, and Barella particularly impressed from the midfield ranks of that trio, Vecino, Gagliardini, Sensi, Vidal, and Nainggolan. The latter had perhaps the most underwhelming impact of all, tallying a grand total of 50 minutes on the pitch in Nerazzurri colors.
Position: Center Midfielder
Games Played: 5 (0 starts, 50 minutes)
What went right this season?
Uhhh, not much, to put it bluntly.
The Belgian seemed on the cusp of a permanent move to Cagliari over the summer after staying on loan in Sardinia through the 19/20 campaign. The two clubs couldn’t come to an agreement, however, so Nainggolan stayed in Appiano. It was clear he would rather remain on the island, but there was still hope that a determined Nainggolan could play an important role in the Nerazzurri midfield. But it was not to be. The 33-year-old missed out on seven games due to injury, while even when fit, Nainggolan looked a shade of his best self and fell down the midfield pecking order. He made only five appearances under Conte’s watch, all late-game substitutions.
In fact, since his €40 million move to Appiano from AS Roma in July of 2018, Nainggolan has made more appearances on loan for Cagliari (55), than at his parent club (41).
Though it never amounted to much, Nainggolan and Arturo Vidal’s double substitution in the 75th minute that kickstarted a memorable 4-3 comeback win over Fiorentina left us with dreams of a Nainggolan/Vidal duo bossing the midfield week after week. Oh well...
What role will he play in 2021/22?
Nainggolan played a key role in guiding Cagliari to safety and with any luck, the Sardinians will finally pony up the money to permanently pry him away. Inter isn’t in a position to hold out for a higher bid thanks to its delicate financial situation, so it's all but certain the Belgian stays at the Sardegna Arena with only one more year left on his Inter contract. Should Inter and Cagliari again fail to come to an agreement, however, it’s possible the new coach will look at Nainggolan as part of his plans.
Overall Player Grade: 2/10 [F]