Radja Nainggolan admitted he was happy to score a late equaliser for Cagliari against his parent club Inter Milan after being ‘treated like a toy’ during his final days with the club last summer.
Lautaro Martinez gave Inter the lead in the first half when he headed in from Ashley Young’s cross, but Nainggolan secured a point for Cagliari 12 minutes from time as his deflected effort beat Samir Handanovic.
The 31-year-old’s celebrations were muted out of respect for his former teammates and Inter’s supporters, but his post-match comments suggested that he was unhappy with how his departure was handled.
Radja Nainggolan scores vs. Inter: Five things to know
- Radja Nainggolan joined Cagliari in 2010 from Piacenza and spent four years with the club prior to moving to Roma in January 2014.
- After spending four-and-a-half years in Rome, Nainggolan moved to Inter in a deal worth £21m plus Nicolo Zaniolo and Davide Santon. He featured 36 times for Inter in 2018-19, scoring seven goals.
- Following the arrival of Antonio Conte last summer, Nainggolan was deemed surplus to requirements at San Siro and rejoined Cagliari on a season-long loan deal in August.
- Upon signing for Cagliari, Nainggolan said: “I’m fired up and I accepted Inter’s decision; it’s up to me to prove that they were wrong.”
- Another factor behind Nainggolan’s decision to return to Cagliari was so that his wife Claudia could be closer to her family in Sardinia after she had been diagnosed with cancer in July.
Cagliari only finished three points above the relegation zone in 15th place last season but Nainggolan’s arrival has coincided with an upturn in fortunes as they are currently 6th in the Serie A table.
Although their recent form has been patchy, Cagliari were deserving of their point at San Siro after firing 13 shots on goal and dominating possession with 60 per cent of the ball and eventually, they made their pressure pay through Nainggolan’s effort.
Speaking afterwards, the Belgian told DAZN: “I have a lot of respect for the Inter fans and for my former team-mates. But I felt treated like a toy. On one hand, I’m happy for the goal, on the other I’m not as I wish my ex-team-mates the best.
“Who knows [what will happen in the future]. I’m concentrating on each game as it comes. I’m having fun, I have some excellent team-mates and we’re playing for something special.”
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The drama didn’t end with Nainggolan’s goal, though, as Inter had two players sent off in the closing stages, including one who wasn’t even on the pitch.
Martinez was initially booked by referee Gianluca Manganiello in injury time after catching Sebastian Walukiewicz as the pair contested an aerial duel, but he was furious at the decision and was shown a straight red card for dissent. Moments later, backup goalkeeper Tommaso Berni was also shown a red card for comments made to Manganiello.
Conte too was seething after the final whistle and refused to talk to the media at all after the game following his side’s third consecutive 1-1 draw which leaves them three points behind leaders Juventus who have a game in hand.