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21st May 2018

Roberto Martinez leaves Belgium star out of World Cup squad

Fans aren't happy about it.

Kyle Picknell

A fan favourite won’t be making the plane.

Radja Nainggolan has reportedly been left of Roberto Martinez’s World Cup squad for this summer’s upcoming tournament in Russia.

Nainggolan, who also failed to make the 2014 tournament in Brazil, is a somewhat surprise exclusion from the Belgian squad, considering Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel both remain important players in the national team setup despite being far less dynamic presences in midfield.

Fellaini’s appearances for United have been sporadic at best whilst Witsel is currently playing for Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League. Martinez continues to prefer both players as holding midfielders in his 3-5-2/3-4-3 system to the more attacking Serie A star.

There has often been controversy surrounding the Roma midfielder and it is widely known that he remains a regular smoker, a lifestyle choice many believe Martinez and former coach Marc Wilmots have both taken issue with.

He remains, however, amongst the best midfielders in Serie A and a consistently driving force in the Roma side that finished third in the league this season and reached the Champions League final, narrowly losing 6-7 on aggregate despite two late goals from Nainggolan in the second leg.

Nainggolan has only made 29 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 6 goals including a stunning opener against Wales in the Euro 2016 quarter-final, which they eventually lost 3-1. He had previously announced his international retirement in August last year, but was called up by Martinez for the friendlies against Mexico and Japan in November, before being forced to pull out through injury.

England will face Belgium in the final game of Group G on the 28th June, with potential opponents Brazil and Germany both awaiting in the quarter-finals.