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Radja Nainggolan Retires from International Play, Left off Belgium's WC Roster

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2018

Belgium's Radja Nainggolan speaks during a press conference after a training session of Belgian national soccer team Red Devils on March 20, 2017, at the Belgian Football Center in Tubize. 
On March 25, Belgium play a game against Greece in the qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  / AFP PHOTO / Belga / BRUNO FAHY / Belgium OUT        (Photo credit should read BRUNO FAHY/AFP/Getty Images)
BRUNO FAHY/Getty Images

Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has announced his retirement from international football after he was left out of Roberto Martinez's provisional Belgium squad for the 2018 World Cup.

Per Sport Witness, he revealed the decision on Instagram:

Sport Witness @Sport_Witness

Radja Nainggolan has announced his international retirement on Instagram. 'Very reluctantly my international career comes to an end... I’ve always done everything I could to represent my country. Being yourself can be bothering... From this day on I will be the first fan.' https://t.co/9N2Y7kIhi1

His exclusion from the squad was perhaps not too surprising, as Nainggolan played just six minutes of their qualifying campaign to reach the tournament in Russia.

The midfielder was reportedly dropped by the Spaniard initially because of his smoking habit, though Martinez said it was a tactical decision:

Belgian Red Devils @BelRedDevils

🗣️ R. Martínez : “@OfficialRadja 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 roles.” #REDTOGETHER 🇧🇪 #WorldCup

Belgian Red Devils @BelRedDevils

🗣️ R. Martínez : “We know that @OfficialRadja has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.” #REDTOGETHER 🇧🇪 #WorldCup

Football journalist John Solano was critical of the snub:

John Solano @Solano_56

Martinez will call this decision “tactical”...but it’s not. He’s had personal issues with Nainggolan for some time now and he let that carry over into his World Cup team selection. Pathetic.

Martinez recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Red Devils, so Nainggolan's chances of playing a significant role after the World Cup appeared to be slim. 

Given he's now 30, it's understandable he has taken the decision to call time on his Belgium career.

His absence is a blow to the national side, though, such is his quality.

As Squawka Football demonstrated, Nainggolan is a potent blend of combativeness and creativity in the centre of the park:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Radja Nainggolan for Roma in the Champions League and Serie A this season: Joint-most assists (11) 2nd most chances created (79) 3rd most take-ons (63) 4th most tackles won (67) Instrumental. https://t.co/9wmNU2uavx

Belgium are hardly short on midfield talent, and they were able to qualify for the tournament largely without Nainggolan, but few can make things happen like he can or contribute so much both offensively and defensively.

To not even have him as an option in the squad is a strange decision if it was made for tactical reasons.

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