Radja Nainggolan has told ESPN he won’t play for Belgium again and has hit out at the “pathetic” excuses behind his international exile.
The Inter Milan midfielder, 30, was left out of Belgium’s World Cup squad last summer and has said he won’t return even if Roberto Martinez was replaced as coach.
“I’m not going back to the national team again. I said that if I don’t go to the World Cup, I’ll quit, and I’m a man of my word,” Nainggolan said. “I play my football here [at Inter], with lots of love for what I do, but I have a different life outside of here.
“If they change the coach tomorrow and he says: ‘come on, come on’ — it’s still no. Because when I make up my mind, I stick to it. It’s not like I say I’m not interested while this coach is in charge — for me, when I say it’s over, it’s over because I’ve thought it through well.
“Each time there’s an international break now, I get four or five days off and I’m happy as I can concentrate on Inter and other things. It was a great experience, I had a great European Championship and that’s enough. They were great experiences on a personal level. I’m a fan of my national teammates — I like them all and have a great relationship with all of the players, it’s just there are some things I cannot accept, some decisions made about me.”
Nainggolan was a regular for his country until Martinez’s arrival in 2016. He played every game under Marc Wilmots at Euro 2016, but has started just three times since.
Martinez said leaving out a “top player” such as Nainggolan for the tournament in Russia was tough but his reasons were tactical.
“I was really, really disappointed with the fact that I’d played a great European Championship and then I was discarded for nothing,” Nainggolan said. “I see things differently: in Belgium, there were players who were not playing at club level and they were getting called up.
“I was playing 50 games and was still being left out. I was never demanding that I had to play, I just deserved to be there in place of some other players.
“Then there were the excuses, but they were all pathetic. Why was I playing 50 games for Roma if I was leading the same life [I was being criticised for]? I think it’s wrong when people say things without speaking to me first. You’ve got to say things to my face, we can have a talk and then we shake hands and you don’t call me up again but I’ve got more respect for you than somebody who doesn’t do that.”
Nainggolan apologised in January after he was pictured partying and smoking during New Year’s celebrations but has said he is often misunderstood.
“People say things, and sadly in football, as in life, when you get a label stuck on you, you’re always known as that person,” he added. “Before signing me, people will always say this and that, but if you don’t want me, fair enough.
“I’m not a bad lad. I think all of the people who know me will tell you I’ve got the biggest heart of anybody they know. I like to make the people around me feel good, because that’s the way I’ve been brought up.