Chris Smalling is on the verge of completing a move to Roma, according to reports, after the Serie A side made a breakthrough in talks with Manchester United.
The 30-year-old has been deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, with United looking to raise funds for signings before the October 5 deadline, and selling Smalling to Roma has become a more viable option this week.
Smalling spent the last year in Italy with Roma where he impressed before returning to United at the end of the season. The Italian side are keen to keep Smalling on a permanent basis but had been unable to agree a fee with United.
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However, talks have progressed on Wednesday, according to the Athletic, with an agreement imminent.
Analysis: Why the fuss over Smalling in Italy? Eurosport Italy's Lorenzo Rigamonti takes a look
Smalling proved to be a solid defender for Roma during the course of the 2019/2020 season. He was the main defensive man for Roma coach Paulo Fonseca, with 37 appearances overall. He managed to play really well in the heart of the three-man defensive line. He was a key player in certain crucial moments of the season: he made a save right on the goal line in a match against SPAL and his header against Torino sealed the Giallorossi qualification to the next Europa League.
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Although he played really well, I don’t think he made a considerable impact on Roma’s defensive performances: Fonseca’s team gave away 55 goals this season. It wasn’t Smalling's fault, but he didn’t save Roma from suffering defensively either.
I think that Italian clubs like his profile because of his physical abilities: he’s really strong and Serie A’s defenders tend/need to be really tough on strikers. But the main reason lies in his experience, especially in European competitions: let’s take Roma as an example; without Smalling, Fonseca will be forced to play Sevilla with Gianluca Mancini, Ibanez and Aleksandar Kolarov as the three defenders.
Other than Kolarov, Mancini and Ibanez, there are only really young players who cannot guarantee the level of experience and mental toughness as Smalling in order to get to Europa League finals. If you want to compete at a European level, veterans like Smalling can be really useful.