Chris Smalling has expressed his delight after securing a “special” return to Roma from Manchester United, admitting the deadline-day move was a “massive relief”. After several weeks of negotiations, Roma finally tied Smalling down to a three-year contract at Stadio Olimpico on Monday after striking a €15 million (£14m/$18m) deal with United.
The Giallorossi worked hard to bring the 30-year-old onto their books after seeing him take up a key role in Paulo Fonseca’s starting XI during a successful loan spell last season.
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Smalling had spent the previous 10 years of his career at Old Trafford, winning eight major trophies in total, including two Premier League titles. However, he fell down the squad pecking order following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival as head coach in December 2018 and ultimately decided to seek a transfer in order to start playing regularly again.
The experienced center-back said his final goodbyes to United supporters on social media, writing on Twitter: “Utd is a special place, and we achieved special things together, something I am beyond proud about.
“An unrivaled culture, where winning is not a want it is a need. I leave not only a better player but a better person, with Utd forever in my DNA. “For that, I have to thank all the staff, everyone connected to the club, and you the fans.”
Smalling would have had to stay and fight for a place in the Red Devils squad had he not been given the chance to make his way back to Rome, and he is now looking forward to picking up from where he left off in 2019-20.
“It’s a massive, massive relief. I think that everyone knew I wanted to come back and to finally get it done, albeit so close to the deadline, it’s just pure relief,” he told the Italian club’s official website. “Now I can enjoy being back and then get straight back to it with the team tomorrow.”
He added to the reception he received from Roma fans after touching down in Italy: “It was truly, truly special. I could feel tingles up my spine. “To see such a big crowd as soon as I landed… honestly, I felt the love from the fans as soon as I first stepped on the pitch but it has just grown and grown [since] and it’s just such a special feeling.”
Asked to open up on his ambitions for the future at Stadio Olimpico, Smalling responded: “I think one of my first goals was to be here long-term, and now it’s about getting a trophy.
“I think that was something that was alluded to me when I first joined and I think now that is an aim that this club needs. Because I think even when I joined, this is obviously a massive club – but it has been without a trophy for a long time now.
“So that’s going to be one of my aims and I’m sure one of the team’s aims this season, to really give something back for the fans to cheer about.”