Chris Smalling had a very strong season at Roma, confounding expectations of anybody who thought he might struggle in Italy.
The only team unconvinced of his value was Roma, who were unwilling to pay the £17 million fee Manchester United wanted to sell him permanently (Football Italia).
United stood firm and did not want Smalling to play a substantial role in the Europa League knockout phase, only extending his loan deal up until early August.
Roma last night went up against Sevilla without Smalling, and were promptly knocked out of the tournament.
Centre-back Gianluca Mancini was handed a red card in the 2-0 defeat, while Ibanez filled in, having made only seven Serie A starts this season.
United’s hard stance exposed Roma’s lack of options without Smalling.
Their need for a centre-back was highlighted in the defeat, and now it makes far more sense than ever before for the Italian side to pay up.
United have played this one just right. We have not been held to ransom, letting him go on the cheap, or acted like a charity by extending his loan for any further than was in our interests.
This same stance pushed Inter Milan into a decision on Alexis Sanchez. We may not have landed a fee, but we achieved our objective of getting his wages off our books.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is suggesting Smalling could return to United and play a role at the club next season. It’s doubtful. He wants to play regularly with a chance of a recall for England on the agenda.
Just like Solskjaer previously insisted Sanchez would return, this is likely just part of a negotiating strategy.
There was another notable development at Roma ahead of the game which could affect Smalling’s future.
Roma were taken over by new owners, with the club website confirming a new consortium had taken a new majority shareholding in the club.
The new owners will have funds available to spend, and one simple way to get fans onside is to buy a popular player.
Roma’s need for Smalling was heightened with their Europa League exit, and United have played this one well. It looks likely that they will pay up for him.
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