Chelsea and Manchester United transfer target Radja Nainggolan has reciprocated the generous praise from long-time admirer Antonio Conte and expressed an admiration for the Premier League, although insists that he is only focused on AS Roma as things stand.
Nainggolan captained the Giallorossi during their Champions League Group C clash at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening (18 October) and featured for the full 90 minutes as Eusebio Di Francesco's side held the Blues in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
The 29-year-old was a hot topic of conversation before that pulsating encounter in west London, with Chelsea head coach Conte - who also tried to sign the player during his time at Juventus - admitting that he attempted to buy Nainggolan after being appointed as the full-time successor to Jose Mourinho last summer.
He also described the explosive Belgian international as one of the best midfielders currently operating in world football, but insisted that now was not the right time to speak about that ongoing interest.
Addressing Conte's flattering comments and his first experience of Stamford Bridge in the post-match mixed zone, Nainggolan told Sky Sports (per football.london): "Good atmosphere. Thank you for the words, but at the end we're playing against each other so I have to do my job.
"I think he's a really good coach because his results over the last few years speak for themselves. But at the end I have to do what I have to do and that's play for Roma, give the maximum for Roma."
Pressed on if he fancied a move to the Premier League in the future, he replied: "It's a good league, beautiful stadiums, good atmosphere in the stadiums. But at the moment my head is only there [at Roma]."
Chelsea are believed to have submitted at least one bid for Nainggolan during the summer of 2016, although apparently refused to meet Roma's £32m ($42.1m) asking price. The former Piacenza and Cagliari midfielder went onto beat top scorer Dzeko to the player of the season award after scoring 14 goals across all competitions to help the club finish as Serie A runners-up behind Juventus for the third time in four seasons.
Those rumours have inevitably resurfaced in the two transfer windows since with Nainggolan speaking openly about his discussions with Conte. United were similarly linked with a possible bid before their deal for Nemanja Matic, while a potential reunion with Luciano Spalletti at Inter Milan was also briefly mooted.
However, 'The Ninja', whose valuation was said to have jumped to around the £40m mark, cooled such speculation in July and demonstrated his commitment to Roma by signing a new four-year contract during their pre-season tour of the United States.