Here’s Why Roma Should Re-Sign Smalling From Manchester United

Chris Smalling is on the brink of leaving Manchester United for Roma, for the second season in-a-row. This time though, the move is set to be permanent.

The Englishman followed the recent trend of departing the Premier League for the Italian Serie A. In England, he was once a revered defender. A United and England regular, Smalling had just completed his eighth season at Old Trafford before opting for a loan move to Roma.

It was an initial season-long deal, and many expected him to be a regular feature for the Romans. But few expected Smalling to be so prominent – he featured 30 times in Serie A last season, scoring three goals and winning over plenty of fans as Roma claimed a 5th-place finish.

Now, as United try to gather funds for the long-awaited signing of Dayot Upamecano, Smalling’s permanent move to Roma looks to be nearing its completion, with a fee in the region of £16M said to be in place.

But why are Roma so keen to bring the 30-year-old back to Italy? Here we take a deeper dive into Smalling’s last season in Serie A, and uncover why.

Roma needed defensive cover going into the last season after losing Kostas Manolas to Napoli. That left the 33-year-old Federico Fazio in the central region, with Gianluca Mancini also coming in ahead of last season.

He and Smalling would be the two favored center-backs throughout the 2019-20 campaign when playing as a four, with Aleksandar Kolarov joining them when playing as a five-strong defense, with three in the middle.

According to, Smalling’s last season at Roma saw him average a performance rating of 7.04 for each of his 30 Serie A games, ranking him as the 9th best center back in the division. To put that into some context, only Genoa’s Domenico Criscito and Inter’s Diego Godin had played more than 10 games and made the top 10 ranked defenders alongside Smalling.

As we continue to look at Serie A center backs who played more than 10 times last season, Smalling ranked 2nd for aerial duels won, averaging 3.3 a game only behind Mattia Bani of Bologna who averaged 4 a game, over 26 Serie A appearances.

Smalling tops 192 cm in height, and that height allowed him to become one of the more aerially dominant defenders in the league last season. Italian defenses are typically resolute, but looking at the greats – Fabio Cannavaro, Paolo Maldini – they weren’t overly-tall, and so having a player like Smalling in Italy gave Roma an advantage at the back, and going forward as well.

His three goals last season made him just the third English player to score at least two goals in a Serie A campaign, the first since David Beckham did so for Milan back in the 2008-09 season.

Elsewhere, Smalling averaged 1.9 interceptions per game last season, and 4 clearances – both rank him just outside the top 10 in terms of players who played at least 10 Serie A games as per

Another rather astonishing stat comes in tackles made – although Smalling averaged just 0.8 tackles per game last season, up until November, he was only one of two center backs in the division to have not been dribbled past when attempting a tackle.

Smalling attempted just 0.9 tackles per game last season and with an average of 0.8 tackles made per game, that gives him a tackle success rate of 88.88%. To add to that, he was dribbled past just 0.1 times per game last season, on average.

The aptly nicknamed “Smalldini” proved a hit with the fans in Rome. A sturdy, typically British defender with a modern edge, Roma could do a lot worse than signing Smalling on a permanent this month. Although Roma conceded three more goals than they did in the 2018-19 season, they finished a position higher, claiming four more points as well.

Despite his age, Smalling is an experienced and now proven player for Roma. For under £20 million as well, and with defensive options somewhat light at Roma, Smalling could again prove to be an influential signing, and the stats give Roma every reason to make him a permanent feature.