Chris Smalling's rebirth in Roma has been perhaps the story of the young season. Initially seen as a pure depth move, Smalling was meant to fill in the minutes between domestic and European fixtures, providing respite to Federico Fazio and Gianluca Mancini. However, since seizing the opportunity in late September, Smalling hasn't looked back, not only earning a starting role with Paulo Fonseca, but transforming himself into one of the league's most effective center backs.
All of this comes as a surprise simply because he was dumped so unceremoniously by Manchester United, for whom he was a rock for so many years. Despite the lack of hype surrounding his summer transfer, Smalling remained a consummate professional, so we knew Roma were getting a student of the game, someone who would be prepared when called upon.
While I won't say that Smalling has mastered Serie A already, his first two months in Rome have been spectacular, reaching an early crescendo with yesterday's goal against Udinese. When word trickled out last week that Roma were keen on retaining his services, it was a pleasant surprise, but Roma are now taking steps to turn that surprise into a permanent reality.
According to Gianluca Di Marzio, Roma have lodged an initial €10 million offer for the 29-year-old Smalling. United, seemingly ready and willing to take advantage of Smalling's rebirth, have reportedly countered with €20 million. While it would be nice if they'd just split the difference and settle on €15 million, we all know the transfer game is seldom that simple.
Roma Director of Sport Gianluca Petrachi remains optimistic, citing Smalling's desire to stay and the positive relationship between the clubs as cause for hope. Smalling's loan deal runs through the end of June, so there isn't necessarily a rush to get this done, but one gets the feeling Petrachi wants this wrapped up before 2020.
The final cost will certainly cause some debate, as they always do, but Smalling figures to have several years of quality football left in him, so the club should have no problem extracting value out of this deal, whatever its final form may be.
Signing Smalling has proved to be a stroke of genius, and keeping him, well, that's just common sense.
In between the time I actually wrote this and published it, our friends at RP jumped on an update that might actually see Roma and United meet in the middle, though when you include the original €3 million loan fee, the total operation would be €18 million—so it appears as though there is room to compromise between the two clubs after all.