I was left out on reputation - Nainggolan angered by World Cup snub
Radja Nainggolan wants to be "judged on his performances" after claiming he was left out of Belgium's World Cup squad due to his reputation.
Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez made the call to omit Nainggolan from his provisional 28-man party for the tournament in Russia on Monday, despite a fine season for the Roma midfielder that saw him play a pivotal role in the Giallorossi's run to the Champions League semi-finals.
The decision was met with surprise and the former Cagliari man feels the perception of him as a troublemaker was decisive.
He told HLN: "I'm sad, I deserved to be there. I got to the Champions League semi-finals and I played well with Roma, I cannot do more than that.
"But I do not like wearing a mask, I am who I am, and if some people don't like that I cannot do anything about it.
"I am always painted as a bad boy but football is still a hobby for me. Okay, it has become my job but I want to be judged on my performances, not for what I do off the field.
"Everybody is free to do what he wants if they play well on the field. Do you think all the players are good guys?"
After the squad was announced, the 30-year-old took to social media to confirm his retirement from international football.
"I've had enough," he added. "I will not continue to fight. I had already planned to stop if they did not let me go to the World Cup.
"It is true that last year I considered making myself unavailable for Belgium, but I still hoped to be able to participate in an experience like the World Cup, it was my childhood dream and now it has been taken away."
— Radja Nainggolan (@OfficialRadja) May 21, 2018
Martinez travelled to the Italian capital on Sunday to discuss the World Cup with Nainggolan, who said he would be happy to go as a squad player.
He said: "The coach came to Rome, which I thought was good. I would have done the same for him. If I have a problem with someone I go to them.
"He told me 'If I were a club coach, I would build a team around you but it's not possible in the national team'. He said 'I'm too important a player to participate in the World Cup as the 20th man in the squad'.
"In part I understand his explanation but if two midfielders get injured does he think I would misbehave on the bench?
"I reassured him that I would be ready if he needed me, if necessary also as the 22nd [man in the squad], in any role, just tell me what you expect from me.
"The conversation lasted about 20 minutes and he told me that his choice had not yet been made. But I knew from his explanation that 70 per cent I would not be going.
"He was afraid of having problems if he took me to Russia."