Universities use case studies to illustrate the various aspects of a subject and sometimes we can use a single player’s situations to cover so many details that go into a transfer. With the winter window just a few weeks away, Chris Smalling’s situation at Roma allows us so to cover so many topics that will be relevant through the end of January.
After Roma’s sporting director Petrachi failed to sign his top targets at center back- on paper the weakest position on his squad despite Gainluca Mancini’s arrival- in the last days of the summer transfer window, he struck a deal with Manchester United for Chris Smalling.
Because Roma’s financial situation didn’t allow them to add another fairly substantial transfer fee on their books during the current fiscal year, they had no choice but to structure the deal on the basis of a loan. However their preference was to include an option to acquire the English defender on a permanent basis during the following fiscal year.
But because the closure of the summer transfer window was looming in Italy and Roma was desperate to reinforce their defense, they agreed to a dry loan for a fee of €3 million with no future option or obligation ( a formula Roma also used to acquire Mkhitaryan). The thinking was they would explore later on what to do if Smalling adapted well to Serie A. For his part, Smalling needed some convincing to accept the transfer on such short notice to a new league, but his conversation with the giallorossi’s manager, Paulo Fonseca, energized him.
While Smalling has his doubts on the move at first, many Manchester United fans were more than happy to see Smalling go (at least if you go by my Twitter feed) as a matter a fact they were disappointed it wasn’t already on a permanent basis since they felt it was almost inevitable Smalling would return to England.
But then something rather surprising happened, Smalling not only performed like one of the best players at his position this season by even exceeding the standards Kostas Manolas showed in his last season in Italy’s capital and upon joining Napoli, he also fully embraced living in his new city despite being a vegan in the carbonara capital of the world.
Fast forward to this week, besides the color of his skin, Smalling has played so well that he was one of the subjects of the extremely controversial “Black Friday” headline alongside his former teammate Lukaku (if he wasn’t considered a top player this season he wouldn’t have been on it) which prompted Manchester United’s current manager to say he expected him back at Old Trafford next June.
Now aside from the fact that Solksjaer won’t likely still be Manchester United’s manager by next summer, his statement is a great reminder that what is said publicly about transfers is very rarely important. One of his predecessors, Van Gaal, swore up and down that he would continue to be Manchester United’s manager and Paul Pogba started he was staying at Juventus a few days before boarding a plane to rejoin his former club.
Following Solksjaer’s press conference, Gianluca Di Marzio reported that talks between Roma and Manchester United were ongoing. The Italian club were willing to increase their initial offer of €15 million from a few weeks ago, with a deal likely to be completed around €20 million.
While this figure may seem low in light of Smalling’s performances in Serie A, he’s also a thirty year old player who will have little resale value down the road- a very important factor for a club like Roma who have to often sell before they buy.
You could make the case Manchester United could receive more should other clubs express interest in Smalling, but in this case the will of the player is key. Smalling has had a rebirth at Roma, enjoys the city and has let it be known he wants to stay- it also doesn’t hurt that Roma already paid €3 million just for a loan.
When you consider that Smalling has no amortized value remaining to offset for Manchester United because he’s been on the club’s books since 2010, the €20 million (or whatever figure they agree to) would be a pure capital gain. In addition, completing this deal without many hiccups could also likely garner some good will for all involved which could benefit Manchester United down the road if they tried to pursue one of Roma’s most exciting players like Zaniolo or Pellegrini.
They say that with the best deals everyone involved leaves the negotiation table slightly unhappy because it’s a give and a take, but in this case Smalling staying at Roma permanently would make everyone better off.