Nothing about Roma's dealings with English clubs this season has worked out the way we expected. When the club signed a trio of Premiership castoffs last summer, the prevailing wisdom was that Chelsea's Davide Zappacosta would be the best fit. After all, he was Italian, had experience in the league and played a position of dire need. Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were interesting names and worthwhile transfers, but I'm not sure anyone knew what to expect. Mkhitaryan had an inconsistent run in England after leaving Dortmund several years ago, while Manchester United fans were stunned that they actually found a taker for Chris Smalling.
And yet here we are. Almost a year after these loans were signed, Zappacosta never made his mark with Roma and is unceremoniously heading back to Chelsea, while Mkhitaryan and Smalling have become indispensable components in Fonseca Football®. Roma, with a big assist from Mino Raiola, were able to arrange a full-time deal for Mkhitaryan to remain in Rome, but they've had no such luck with Manchester United.
If we averaged it out, I'd guess that a new Smalling update drops every two to three weeks, and indeed this marks the third such update of July. Way back on the 10th, Alfredo Pedullo and Sportitalia reported that Roma and United were close to hammering out a €20 million loan + obligation to buy deal, with €3 million due upfront and the remaining €17 million payable over three years.
That obviously never happened, so on July 19th we passed along word of a slightly modified deal in which Roma would pay €15 million—again, payable over three years—to retain Smalling permanently, plus a €1 million penalty of sorts if Smalling played against United in the climax to the ‘19-’20 Europa League, to be played next month.
That obviously never happened either, so here we are for the third time in 17 days discussing Chris Smalling's future. According to Calciomercato.com, United are still standing firm on their €20 million valuation for the 31-year-old defender, with Roma reportedly not willing to go beyond €18 million, despite what those reports from July 10th may have said.
Pedulla takes things a step further and suggests that Roma, based on how well Smalling and his family have adapted to life in Roma, have tried to leverage Smalling's desire to remain in the capital to whittle down the €20 million deal into a slightly more favorable €18 million figure, which, again, United refuse to accept.
And in an absolute nightmare scenario, Pedulla adds that Juventus, Napoli and Inter Milan are watching and waiting for Roma to drop the bag so they can swoop in and sign Smalling. It seems silly that Roma would let €2 million stand between them and a player they so desperately need, but, well, here we are.
Undoubtedly, there will be further updates to this story over the next week or so, since Roma have to sort this out before the Europa League begins. But for our collective sanity, let's hope that if Smalling can't remain in Rome that he returns to England; seeing him play for another club in Italy would a constant reminder of Roma's shortcomings.
Sort it out, Guido Fienga.