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FIFA World Cup 2018: Belgium's Radja Nainggolan announces retirement after omission from 28-man squad

Milan: Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan announced on Monday that he was calling time on his international career after being overlooked for the Belgium World Cup squad.

The heavily tattooed 30-year-old has played 30 times for his country and is popular with supporters, but his relationship with coach Roberto Martinez has often been strained.

The Spaniard flew out to Italy over the weekend to explain his choice.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 22, 2017 Roma's Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League group C football match between Atletico Madrid and AS Roma at the Wanda Metropolitan Stadium in Madrid. Belgium have left midfield creator Radja Nainggolan out of their World Cup squad, coach Roberto Martinez said on May 21, 2018. The absence of Nainggolan, who scored twice for Roma in the second league of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool this month, was the biggest surprise in the 28-player list that will be reduced to 23 before the tournament. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

File image of AS Roma's Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who announced his international retirement. AFP.

"Unfortunately and very reluctantly my international career comes to an end," Nainggolan wrote on Instagram.

"I've always done everything I could to represent my country. Being yourself can irritate people. From this day on I'll be the number one fan.”

The absence of Nainggolan, who scored twice for Roma in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool this month, was the biggest surprise in the 28-player list that will be reduced to 23 before the tournament.

Belgium face England, Panama and Tunisia in Group G at the World Cup.

The Spanish former Everton manager said, "Radja is a top player. The reason is tactical. In the last two years, the team has worked in a specific manner. Other players had those (midfield) roles.

"We know that Radja has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.”

Martinez added, "It was a sad and difficult decision. He is a player with a lot of class and he was voted Roma's best player, but I've made my decision for purely tactical reasons.

"I have put in place a specific system that works. I can't use Radja in a secondary role."

The decision to omit Nainggolan was criticised by former Belgian international Philippe Albert.

"We must be the only country in the world to be making the trip without one of the best players in the world. This is not the way to become world champions."

Nainggolan had earned 30 caps for Belgium since making his debut against Chile on 29 May 2009.

Belgium's best World Cup finish was fourth place in 1986


Updated Date: May 21, 2018 23:23 PM

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