1st March 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
"If you have ten Nainggolans you have a great team regardless of role Â… Radja is one of those players that can do anything."

Roma manager Luciano Spalletti was effusive in his praise of Radja Nainggolan after his side's 3-1 win over Inter Milan at the San Siro last weekend.

It certainly feels as though Nainggolan can do anything at the moment. The Belgian midfielder has been in outstanding form since Serie A resumed after its winter break, and his performance against the Nerazzurri was perhaps one of the finest of his career.

The 28-year-old was typically combative, while also assured and confident on the ball. Like a prime Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira, few players are able to drive their team on as Nainggolan does when at his best.

The midfield powerhouse is tenacious in carrying out his defensive duties and dynamic when transitioning into attack, utilising a combination of upper-body strength and excellent close control to break away from opposition makers, opening up space for the Giallorossi forwards.

Up against Stefano Pioli's resurgent Inter, Nainggolan capped his stunning all-round display with two goals of absolutely stunning quality.

Picking up the ball wide on the left, he powered away from 22-year-old Inter midfielder Roberto Gagliardini whom he ran ragged all game before launching a powerful curling effort from the corner of the penalty area for his first, leaving goalkeeper Samir Handanovic without a prayer of keeping it out.

Nainggolan's second strike was even more spectacular. With his trademark driving power, he cruised all the way from deep inside his own half and into the final third, covering at least 50 yards of ground. Before the Inter defenders could get close enough to make a challenge, he unleashed a right-footed rocket which screeched into the top-left corner of Handanovic's net; it was a goal of the season contender form the punk-haired maestro.

Those two goals took Nainngolan's tally to nine for the season, with five in his last six outings. The majority of those have been unstoppable strikes from in excess of 25 yards too; the former Udinese man is not only effective, he's capable of the spectacular.

If Chelsea had gotten their way last summer, Nainggolan would be plying his trade at Stamford Bridge this season rather than the Stadio Olimpico. The Premier League leaders reportedly made three offers for the Belgian international, with the final one totalling €40 million.

Roma refused to sell their star man, and the player himself, unlike so many others, had no interest in chasing the riches on offer in England.

"Going to Chelsea would be an opportunity, as I'd improve as a player and in economic terms," He told Nina magazine back in June last year. "But money isn't the most important thing and I don't think I could improve my current quality of life.

"I built my home in Rome, where the sun always shines. Giving all this up would be difficult. Life isn't just football. Can you see me in England, where it rains all the time?"

Italy has been Nainggolan's home ever since he joined Piacenza's youth ranks 12 years ago, and he now has an Italian wife and two children who have only known the Peninsula, so moving abroad, to him, is something that requires great consideration; for now, he's perfectly happy where he is.

He's every reason to be happy in the Italian capital too, with Roma second in Serie A, aiming to chase down champions Juventus who currently hold a seven-point lead, while still going strong in the Europa League and the Coppa Italia; Nainggolan wants to win it all with the Giallorossi.

Speaking after being drawn against Ligue 1 side Lyon in the Europa League last 16, he told UEFA's official website: "The draw was unlucky, because we're meeting one of the strongest teams.

"At the end of the day though, if you don't meet a strong team in this round then you definitely will in the next, so it doesn't change much.

"You have to beat everyone to lift the trophy and that's what we want to do.

"I'm happy with the way I'm playing and the way the team is playing."

At 28, Nainggolan appears to be reaching his peak. In his current form, there is not a team in Europe who would not benefit from having his talents in midfield, so it's easy to see why Antonio Conte identified him as a target when he took charge of Chelsea.

Different on the pitch, Nainggolan is also unique of it. With his tattoos, mohawk hairstyle and outspoken nature, it would be easy for him to rub people up the wrong way and his refusal to quit smoking cigarettes certainly perturbed former Belgium coach Marc Wilmots.

However, coming from a humble and difficult upbringing, the Antwerp native is grounded and possesses the kind of passion and work ethic that makes him the embodiment of the Roma fans out on the pitch.

"I grew up in a rough neighbourhood, without money and without a father," he explains. "Football was my salvation and I could've gone down a bad path.

"This is why it makes me happy to help other people. I give away a lot of the extras I receive from my work, because I don't need them."

As perhaps the finest box-to-box midfielder in Europe right now, Nainggolan would have every right to sing his own praises, but the fact that he does not see himself as one of the game's superstars is perhaps key to his ability to work as hard as he does, to exhibit the fighting spirit of a man with everything still to prove.

"Am I a star? No, that's Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, people who also know how to behave off the field. That's why I admire Eden Hazard: he's the best player in Belgium and the fairest guy I know."

Almost at odds with the footballing world he is surrounded by, Nainggolan's humility is refreshing. Maybe a big-money Premier League move lies somewhere in his future, but for now he's staying focussed on what matters most.

"I will keep on playing until I am 33 or 34, then the moment will come to really stay close to my wife and two daughters."