Chelsea target Radja Nainggolan has expressed his desire to stay at Roma, closing the door to a possible switch to the Stamford Bridge. If reports are to be believed, the Blues have now turned their attentions to his Belgian compatriot Axel Witsel.
AS Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge this summer. The Belgian midfielder has been one of the top transfer targets for incoming Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who had also tried to sign him when he was managing Juventus.
However, Nainggolan has expressed his desire to stay in Rome and has reportedly promised Roma president James Pallotta that he isn’t going anywhere.
Conte is looking to spruce up the Blues midfield in order to implement his favourite 3-5-2 formation. He viewes Nainggolan as an excellent box-to-box midfielder, an essential position in his ideal midfield.
Nainggolan was to play the role that Arturo Vidal played at Juventus under Conte, but it now looks like the Italian will be denied his services due to Luciano Spalletti’s unwillingness to let go of the player.
After losing out on the 28-year-old, the Blues have now decided to target his Belgium teammate Axel Witsel instead, according to British football news service ClubCall.
The 27-year-old central midfielder has been a regular starter for the national side in the European Championships. He had scored against the Republic of Ireland in their final Group stage match.
His exploits have not gone unnoticed by Antonio Conte, whose Italian side beat Belgium in their opening Euro 2016 match. Conte was impressed with Witsel’s performances on the day and the Italian now considers him to be the best alternative to Nainggolan.
Witsel has been a mainstay for Russian club Zenit St Petersburg since arriving from Benfica in 2012, but he is now looking to move to a bigger league as he is nearing his prime. Top European clubs like Juventus and Manchester United are also in the race for the Belgian.
However, Chelsea will face a few difficulties in landing Witsel. The same report goes on to say that, according to his agent, the Belgian favours a move to Serie A club Napoli because of the weather and allure of Champions League football. The Blues will be without any European football next season after finishing in 10th position in the Premier League in 2015-16.