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'We don't talk anymore!' - Pjanic & Nainggolan go to war in Juventus v Roma

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 343

Pin Radja Nainggolan Miralem Pjanic Roma
Radja Nainggolan Miralem Pjanic Roma

'We don't talk anymore!' - Pjanic & Nainggolan go to war in Juventus v Roma

BeSoccer by BeSoccer @besoccer_com - 0 343

With the Belgian set to be reunited with his "brother" in Turin on Saturday, he may be wondering if his loyalty will go unrewarded

When it first emerged in the middle of May that Juventus were seriously considering activating Miralem Pjanic's buy-out clause, Roma team-mate Radja Nainggolan joked, "I already said that he can’t talk to me anymore!" The Belgian wasn't smiling, though, when he learned during the European Championship in France less than a month later that his fellow midfielder was on his way to Turin.

"I love him, I accept his choice and I’ll continue to love him,” Nainggolan told reporters after his country's loss to Italy in Lyon. "He was like a brother and it’d definitely be better to play together but he made another choice and we accept it. These things happen in football."

Allegri desperate to beat Roma

Indeed they do. A footballer leaving one club for another he feels more likely to win trophies at is nothing new. It happens multiple times in each and every transfer window. Granted, we live in an era in which many are motivated by money, with Oscar’s imminent move to China the latest case in point. However, numerous footballers are still driven by the prospect of lifting major trophies, all the while knowing that financial gain is a by-product of success.

In that context, Pjanic’s decision to accept a transfer to Turin was both unsurprising and understandable. The Bianconeri, after all, have won the last five Serie A titles and are considered major contenders in this season’s Champions League. Roma, by contrast, have won just three Scudetti in their entire history, and none since 2001, while they were knocked out of Europe by a distinctly average Porto side that Juve are expected to eliminate with ease next February.

 

As big as the Gillorossi are, they are clearly not on the same level as the Italian champions, either in a sporting or financial sense. However, Nainggolan will be buoyed by the progress that they are making, on and off the field, and while he may not still be around to play at the new stadium that they are hoping to build – a project that has, rather predictably, already become wrapped up in red tape – he is well within his rights to dream of winning a title at the Stadio Olimpico.

No other side has scored more goals in Serie A this season (36, one more than Juve), while they go into Saturday’s showdown with Juve in fine form, having won eight of their last 10 Serie A games, a remarkable run that includes hard-fought victories over city rivals Lazio and third-placed AC Milan. A triumph in Turin would see them draw to within a point of the reigning Italian champions at the top of the table.

Spalletti: Roma can't defend at Juve

However, history is against Roma - they have won just three of their last 22 clashes with the Old Lady and lost on their last five visits Juventus Stadium - as is the fact that Mo Salah, their most potent performer this season, is, at most, only likely to feature as substitute, with the Egyptian winger only having just recovered from an injury sustained in training before the Rome derby.

The onus will, thus, be on Nainggolan to once again step up to the mark. He proved pivotal in the vital victories over Lazio and AC Milan in Roma's last two outings. Shorn of the services of Salah, coach Luciano Spalletti has had to tinker with his tactics, switching from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, and that has resulted in a more advanced role for Nainggolan, just behind lone striker Edin Dzeko. The former Cagliari man has flourished in his new position, racking up goals in back-to-back Serie A games for the first time in his career.

As Nainggolan freely admits, he is by no means a classic trequartista but the way in which he instantaneously controlled a looping header before then cutting infield and bending the ball into the bottom corner of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal in the 1-0 win over Milan had all the hallmarks of a classic No.10.

However, he arguably drew a bigger roar from his supporters just minutes later when he recovered possession with an expertly-timed tackle on Suso in the Milan half, underlining that while Nainggolan may not have the silky skills of other attacking midfielders, his attributes make him a nightmare for opponents napping in perilous positions.

Of course, with Nainggolan set to once again take on the trequarista role against Juve, it means that he will be in direct competition with Pjanic, who is expected to start in behind Juve’s awesome all-Argentine attack of Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala.

It will, thus, be brother against brother in the war for Serie A supremacy. They could, of course, been on the same side, and not only had Pjanic resisted Juve’s advances to remain at Roma.

Nainggolan, himself, was offered the chance to hook up with the Old Lady over a year ago but explained that his heart belonged to the Giallorossi, who he claimed were just as capable of fulfilling his Scudetto dream.

Roma can win Scudetto - Perotti

“I do not need to join a stellar team to win a trophy,” he declared. “I am in a good team now and I would love to [win the league] with Roma.

“For me, winning the Scudetto once at Roma would mean more than winning 10 with Juventus.”

One imagines that Pjanic would respectfully disagree with his "brother" on that particular point... that is, if they ever start speaking again.

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