After a difficult few years at Manchester United, Chris Smalling has been given a new lease of life on loan at Roma this season.
The defender was often criticised by United fans, and he fell down the pecking order at Old Trafford after Harry Maguire joined the club in the summer.
However, the 30-year-old has been a revelation in Italy and has earned plenty of plaudits. Here’s what his manager – and many others – have said about him.
“Chris has settled in completely now and he is playing well. He’s a great player and very important to the team.”
“The public at Roma has a lot of expectations, but they started appreciating Smalling immediately. He has won over the fans’ credit and consensus.
“He’s playing like a great defender and a leader with personality – even when Roma lost to Parma on Sunday he was the best. He’s in full growth, since he arrived at Roma he has never played a bad game, never. This proves it’s the type of football that suits him most.
“He took up the number 6 shirt, which was retired for a period after legendary defender Aldair left the club, but I believe he can follow his footsteps and at 29 years of age, he has everything it takes to be a mainstay at Roma for the next four seasons.”
Chris Smalling for Roma in Serie A this season:
2 – Dribbled past less than Virgil van Dijk (3).
11 – More blocks than Harry Maguire (7).
17 – More interceptions than Kalidou Koulibaly (14).
3 – Involved in more goals than van Dijk (1), Maguire (1), and Koulibaly (0) combined. pic.twitter.com/Ixi3hgurzN
— BlameFootball (@blamefootball) November 25, 2019
“Chris Smalling has adapted very well to Serie A, even if it is different to the football in England. Gianluca Mancini is also a talented centre-back, so I can play alongside either of them.”
“Smalling and I have a strong understanding of each other. We always train together along with Juan Jesus and Fazio too. We knew that Brescia plays with two strikers and that we could each handle the one-on-one’s.”
“An absolute totem of the defence.”
“He’s getting better and better, playing the best football of his career in Italy; a country which knows a thing or two about defending.
“He scored his second goal for Roma at the weekend against Brescia and provided assists for Edin Dzeko and Gianluca Mancini, his 23-year-old central defensive partner.
“This isn’t a one-off freak performance since Smalling has been consistently brilliant right from the start.”
✅ @ASRomaEN 3-0 Brescia.
🏴 @ChrisSmalling’s performance:
⚽️ 49’ – Goal
🎯 57’ – Assist
🎯 66’ – Assist
🧤 FT – Clean Sheet
🍾 Man Of The Match
👏 Masterclass. pic.twitter.com/XZmhWLCBpa
— SPORF (@Sporf) November 24, 2019
“Smalling came cheap – the fee has been reported at €3m for a one-year loan – and has quickly become a fixture of Roma’s starting XI.
“He is well-suited to the style of football preferred by Paulo Fonseca. The Roma manager prefers a high defensive line, making pace an essential trait for his centre-backs.”
“It depends on what Smalling wants, the will of the player is important. At first he didn’t find much space, but now playing in Rome has become a blessing, as he wants to return to the national team.
“He is an important player, we just needed to know if he could adapt to Italian football on a tactical and technical level, but he has settled in very well because he has a great understanding of the game.”
“Smalling is doing exceptionally well at Roma. £13million, the price they are putting on his head, that’s not enough.”
“Arsenal could maybe do worse than to take him.”
“At the time [Alessandro] Florenzi, [Lorenzo] Pellegrini, [Federico] Fazio and [Aleksander] Kolarov were all off the pitch. Dzeko was coming off and he decided to give it (Captain’s armband) to Chris — a good call, in my view. Sometimes the players know who the leaders are out there.”
Wearing the captain's armband for the first time tonight…
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) November 28, 2019
“We will monitor him. It’s important, whenever players are playing abroad, we’ve got to be across it. It’s good from Smalling’s point of view that he’s settled as well as he has, having left Manchester United.”