Radja Nainggolan: Why Chelsea Should Pursue Him Ahead Of Witsel

Chelsea are reportedly ready to add to their Belgian contingent with midfield duo Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan on their radar.

The pair featured prominently as their country’s first-choice central midfield partnership at Euro 2016 with Tottenham’s impressive Mousa Dembélé left looking on from the sidelines and it would no surprise to see at least one of them in the Premier League next season.


Nainggolan…. tough-tackling

At the Euros, it was Nainggolan who grabbed more of the attention with a couple of stunning long-range goals.

He netted the only goal against Sweden which confirmed their progress from the group stage before bagging another screamer to give Belgium the lead in the Quarter-Final against Wales and was one of the few Belgian players to really leave France with much credit.

At club level, he plays for Roma where he has forged a reputation as a tough tackling midfielder with an eye for goal.

He is a hard-working player with a good engine, but isn’t known as being hugely creative and only created 1 goal in 35 appearances in Serie A last season.

Nainggolan is not dissimilar in style to Nemanja Matic and would be a very solid replacement should the Serb leave the club.



Witsel… a better passer

Axel Witsel plays the same position but tends to occupy a slightly deeper role and brings different qualities to a side.

He is a better passer of the ball then Nainggolan and were he to join Chelsea his role, you’d imagine it would be to provide the link between defence and attack by picking up the ball in a deep position and trying to find the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian ahead of him.

The 27 year old is currently playing in Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg and has 71 caps for Belgium so he has played at the top level in the Champions League and in major international tournaments.

However, he has never played in a top league with spells at Benfica and Standard Liege prior to joining Zenit.


Who is more suited to the Premier League’s rigours?

Of the two it is Nainggolan who is more obviously suited to the Premier League.

He is a more robust player and certainly wouldn’t be intimidated by the physicality of the Premier League.

Witsel is not a great tackler and there would be a risk that bottom half teams at least would target him and give him little time on the ball to display his stronger qualities.

Although slightly older than Witsel at 28, Nainggolan’s emergence as a top player has been slower and he missed out on a place in the Belgian squad at the last World Cup but has excelled for Roma since then and forced his way ahead of the likes of Dembele and Fellaini and into the team.


A better complement

Nainggolan is a player very clearly on the up and would bring some much needed energy and dynamism to the Chelsea midfield and would be a better complement to someone like Cesc Fabregas, who possesses similar qualities to Witsel.


Written by Mark Sochon

Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol

Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!

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