At this stage in the game, we've seen nearly every possible permutation in Roma's pursuit of Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. What was initially a one-year-why-the-hell-not loan of the 30-year-old defender soon became—thanks to his stellar play for Roma this past season—one of the more protracted transfer negotiations we've ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of tracking, with the two clubs trading figures and formulas for months now.
After surging into the starting lineup in place of Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus last September, it wasn't long before Roma sought to make Smalling's stay in the Eternal City slight longer. But just how long?
While United and Roma have danced around a permanent transfer for several months now, it finally...possibly...maybe seems like the two clubs have the framework of a €20 million in place.
So, everything is good, right?
#AsRoma pushing for #Smalling transfer.— Angelo Mangiante (@angelomangiante) September 5, 2020
The agreement with #MUFC is very close, but the #ManUtd defender is talking with AsRoma about the new contract. He asks 4 years contract (€3M/season as wage), AsRoma offer 3 years contract. Talks ongoing for the right length. @SkySport pic.twitter.com/kgyjhxEoVB
Eh, maybe not. For some reason, Roma continue to make things hard on themselves. After pursuing a permanent deal for Smalling for nearly nine months now, Roma are (per Sky Sport) balking at Smalling's demand for a four-year deal. While the salary (€3 million) doesn't seem to be an issue, it's those pesky 12 extra months causing this latest delay.
Where the two sides settle is anyone's guess, but there's no debating Smalling's importance to the squad, particularly when you consider the age and inexperience of Roma's remaining central defenders (assuming Jesus and Fazio accept their proposed transfers).
But is his importance to Paulo Fonseca's squad worth that extra year or will Roma's desire to get younger and remain younger win out?
With Roma's opening round fixture against Hellas Verona only 15 days away, nine months of bitter negotiations with United may ultimately come down to a battle between the club and the player they've so desperately pursued all along.
Three years or four years? Will Roma really let 12 months stop them from signing a man they’ve been chasing for nearly that long?