Roberto Martinez has named a star-studded provisional Belgium squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, but there is no place for Roma’s Radja Nainggolan in his 28-man pool.
Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Edin Hazard and Vincent Kompany are among the big names upon whom the Belgians will be pinning their hopes, while the likes of Christian Benteke and Nasser Chadli have been selected despite difficult seasons at club level. Lukaku and Hazard could also be joined in Russia by their brothers, with Thorgan Hazard and Jordan Lukaku among the 28 selected at this stage.
The omission of Nainggolan inevitably dominated the squad’s unveiling though, with Martinez insisting that the controversial decision was motivated purely by tactical considerations.
“First and foremost, we all know Radja is a top player, there is no question about that,” Martinez told a news conference. “It is a tactical reason. In the last two years, the team has worked in an offensive way, in a very specific manner.
“In the case of Radja, we all know he has a very important role at club level and I don’t think we can give him that in the national team. I travelled to see him yesterday in Rome and we had a very good conversation.
“The decision is not an easy one, I understand how popular the player is, but we have to create the team to try to become a winning team. It is purely a tactical decision.”
All squads are provisional until the final list of 23 players is announced by FIFA, following their submission by participating teams, on 4 June.
Provisional Belgium squad
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg/Germany), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/England), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool/England), Mats Sels (Newcastle United/England)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic/Scotland), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles FC/USA), Christian Kabasele (Watford/England), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City/England), Jordan Lukaku (Lazio/Italy), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain/England), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona/Spain), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur/England)
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion/England), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/England), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht/Belgium), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United/England), Youri Tielemans (Monaco/France), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian/China PR)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea/England), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace/England), Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang/China PR), Eden Hazard (Chelsea/England), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach/Germany), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad/Spain), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United/England), Dries Mertens (Napoli/Italy)