‘I would like him to stay’ – Roma boss Fonseca ‘surprised’ by how quickly Smalling has adapted to Serie A

The Portuguese tactician says the Manchester United loanee has been an important member of the Giallorossi squad this season

Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca has revealed that he would like to see Chris Smalling remain at Stadio Olimpico beyond the current season.

Smalling joined the Italian giants on a season-long loan from Manchester United back in August, after falling down the pecking order at Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 30-year-old was restricted to just 24 Premier League appearances in 2018-19, and faced criticism for his performances in defence as the Red Devils slipped to a sixth-placed finish.

He was thrown in at the deep end upon his arrival at Roma, and soon managed to rediscover his best form to help the club push for Champions League qualification.

The Giallorossi were only three points adrift of the top four in Serie A before the season was called to a temporary halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Smalling had featured in 21 of their 26 fixtures, scoring twice.

Roma are thought to be keen on signing the experienced centre-back permanently when his loan deal expires, with United reportedly willing to accept an offer within the region of £25 million ($31m).

Fonseca has now expressed his hope that Smalling’s services will be retained, having been “surprised” at how quickly he has adapted to the rigours of top-flight Italian football.

“He surprised me. He’s a defender that had never left England and he arrived in a league very demanding of tactics, where details make the difference,” the Portuguese boss told A Bola.

“Chris adapted very quickly. He’s an extraordinary guy, very intelligent. He has characteristics that I really appreciate in the centre.

“He’s fast, nearly unbeatable in one-on-ones. He has a great ability to read the play and anticipate. He was very important for this club.

“If possible, I would like him to stay. He’s a great professional and person, it’s a pleasure to have him here with us.”

Arsenal and Tottenham have also been linked with Smalling in recent months, but Solskjaer said in December that he expects the defender to return to the Theatre of Dreams after a “fantastic” spell in Italy.

The ex-England international’s future is likely to remain up in the air until a final decision on whether the season will continue is made, with it not yet known if the summer transfer window will be affected by the Covid-19 crisis.