It's hard to truly capture just how stupendous Chris Smalling's first year with Roma was. Think back to last August. What were you impression of this move? Stained by their experience with Ashley Cole, most Roma fans were wary of taking a chance on an aging Premiership castoff. Even our colleagues at the Busby Babe were warning us to exercise caution when it came to Smalling's ability to adapt to Serie A.
Given all that, your pessimism was probably well warranted. But then the season started. After riding the pine the first few weeks of the season, Smalling made his first start against Atalanta on September 25th and never looked back. In what is undeniably one of the most productive loan seasons in club history, Smalling would go on to make 37 appearances, scoring three goals, chipping in two assists, while averaging more than three aerials won per match and four clearances per match.
Smalling's rebirth in Roma was the stuff of Disney scripts. With Roma engaging Manchester United in negotiations all season long, hoping to land Smalling permanently for some €18 to €20 million, Gianluca Petrachi, and later Guido Fienga. tried every conceivable way they could to stretch a buck. A loan with an option to buy, a loan with an obligation, a straight sale split into installments, Petrachi doing United’s laundry for a year. You name it, Roma tried it...to no avail.
With Roma and United unable to settle on a fee, Smalling officially left the Giallorossi after their victory over Juventus, missing out on Roma's ill-fated Round of 16 Europa League fixture against Sevilla.
In the days since then, we've seen Smalling connected with moves to clubs as disparate as Inter Milan, Newcastle and the newly promoted Fulham. But, despite all that flurry and bluster, one thing hasn't changed: Smalling wants Roma and only Roma.
And to that end, Nicolo Schira provided us with a welcomed update earlier today:
#ASRoma are pushing to close Chris #Smalling’s return on a permanent deal. The centre-back wants still to join Roma (his first choice). They are working to finalize the deal with #ManUnited. He will be the first purchase of #Friedkin’s era. 3-year contract. #transfers #MUFC https://t.co/28upvpOEHy— Nicolò Schira (@NicoSchira) August 16, 2020
While there are obviously no financial details in that Tweet, multiple Italian sources claim that the two sides will settle on a €25 million fee; a price Roma could only match in their new Friedkin reality. With the sale of the club expected to be finalized tomorrow, and with Dan Friedkin set to become Roma's 25th president, his first gift to Roma fans may be the €25 million-rated Smalling.
Loans seldom work out as well as this, with both the player and club getting a new lease on life, so it wouldn't have seemed right for Smalling to continue on elsewhere—let's just hope Schira is right!
More updates as they become available.