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 By Ian Holyman

Roma's Radja Nainggolan: I suffered during Belgium absence

Radja Nainggolan says it was "painful" not to be called up by Belgium and has downplayed the notion that his bad-boy image was a reason for his absence.

The Roma midfielder has been selected by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez for his country's upcoming friendlies with Mexico and Japan after having missed out on the last two international squads.

In his absence, Belgium clinched their place at next summer's World Cup, and Nainggolan admitted he had felt hurt to be left on the sidelines while his teammates claimed a berth in Russia.

"It was painful not to be here the last few times," the 29-year-old said. "Now, I'm happy to be back. My good performances for my club perhaps made the coach's decisions more difficult.

"I have always been good. I feel good in the squad and I feel supported. I deserve my call-up. I want to be in the squad but there are a lot of players who also want to be in it. These two matches are going to be tests for me."

Radja Nainggolan was not included in the two previous Belgium squads.

In August, Nainggolan denied he had retired from international football after being left out of the squad in late.

"I had just said I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't here," Nainggolan said. "Sometimes I don't show that it hurts me, but I suffered a bit. But that's life, you have to continue your life. I'm happy to be here. I hope perhaps we can talk a bit about what happened, and look forward a bit more positively.

"We've never talked about what happened, because I didn't have the chance. I'm here for a week now, I hope we'll have the time."

Martinez had said the former Cagliari man had been left out for tactical reasons ahead of October's qualifiers, and Nainggolan added: "The coach has to make his choices.

"It's not up to me to decide who comes and who doesn't."

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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