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With Smalling Return Delayed, Roma Could Turn to Oumar Solet in January

Chris Smalling may not see the pitch until February, and with Evan Ndicka off to AFCON next month, could Roma snag Salzburg's Oumar Solet?

FC Red Bull Salzburg v SK Austria Klagenfurt - Admiral Bundesliga Photo by Franz Kirchmayr/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

After putting their early season woes behind them, Roma has turned a corner as fall gives way to winter, winning six of their last eight league matches. By narrowly sneaking by Sassuolo last weekend, José Mourinho's men did just enough to climb into fourth place, their highest position on the table this season.

Things are looking up in the Romaverse, but Mourinho's defense continues to be plagued by injuries. While Marash Kumbulla recently returned to training following recovery from ACL surgery, the backline's most experienced player, Chris Smalling, remains sidelined with tendonitis in his knee, an issue that's kept the 34-year-old English center-back on the shelf since late September.

With Smalling reluctant to undergo surgery, his return may be delayed until February, putting Roma in a bit of a bind. For the past several weeks, Mourinho has relied on Gianluca Mancini, Diego Llorente, and Evan Ndicka at the back. Still, with the latter set to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations early next month, Mourinho and General Manager Tiago Pinto may be forced to sign a new center-back during the January transfer window.

While this isn't the first time he's been linked with a move to Roma, Salzburg defender Oumar Solet stoked the fires in a recent interview with

"I need to take a step forward and grow as a footballer. With the qualities and ambitions I have, I think it's the right time for the next step, which means moving to one of the major leagues and starting to play big challenges every week. I am more mature and have more experience in the league and the Champions League. Every day I work to be a better player and for this reason I decided to rely on a nutritionist, a personal trainer and a digital communication team.

Rasmus is a friend. He is a good right back and is doing great things. I really wish him the best. José Mourinho can really be of great help for the growth of young people. He's someone you really want to fight for. A great feeling. With a coach like that you can only improve"

Of course, in the same interview, he expressed his admiration for the English Premier League, so we should take this with a grain of salt. Still, Solet is an intriguing young player, and we've seen what Mourinho can do with up-and-coming center-backs before, so Solet may be a name to watch.