Chris Smalling faced the media on Wednesday afternoon at Trigoria, as he was formally presented (for the second time) as a Roma player. The English centre-back answered questions about his emotions at returning to the Giallorossi, along with his targets for the next three seasons with the club. Here's what Smalling had to say.
Do you think the team this season, with all the new additions, is stronger than last year? What goals should the team have for this season?
“I am very happy to be here. I would say we are definitely a lot stronger. I think, even when I arrived quite late in the window last season, there had already been quite a number of new signings, on top of a new manager, so we’ve almost had a whole year playing together, with a few new additions this summer as well. We are in a better position now than when I first arrived and I think this is a season where we are looking forward to achieving great things.”
What are your feelings over these first few days being back at Trigoria?
“I think pure happiness, [especially] when I first arrived. The welcome I had at the airport is something I had never experienced before. And then when you walk through the doors at Trigoria the first thing you see is all the trophies, so I think it just spurred me on – all the love and affection that I’ve received from the fans, both last season and since my return, and now I want to give something back and win trophies. I know how much the fans would like it and I’m going to do my best to achieve that with the team.”
A lot of fans would like to see you captain the team, given the affection you showed for the club on your return. Do you want to wear the armband?
“I think we have here one of the best captains, that most teams in the world would want, in Edin [Dzeko]. With good teams you need leaders on the pitch and I think I can be one of those, with my actions, like I was last season. But ultimately I want to help my team off the pitch as well. Over the coming weeks and months, with Claudio [Bisceglia, the team’s translator] I want to sharpen up on my Italian so I can be an example on the pitch as well as off the pitch. But yes, I think this team has many leaders – including Edin, who is our captain.”
Another child has been found after featuring in your transfer announcement video. You are heavily involved in charity work too – can you talk about that a bit?
“I think when I first arrived, we obviously had this campaign and it was very successful last season and has continued through the signings so far this season too. Obviously I’m very proud to be part of a movement that is far bigger than football, and I think football can reach so many different countries because it is worldwide. To be able to spread a message worldwide, to be able to help find so many of these vulnerable children, it’s great to be a part of and great that Roma are leading by example on that front. It is very much in line with some of the initiatives I have in England and ones I want to continue to grow. Football Beyond Borders is also a social football charity that helps equally vulnerable kids who are often misled or, in a class of 30 children, it’s difficult to give all the attention that perhaps one child deserves. So they try to do more one-on-one stuff to help children. It is great that Roma is in line with that, they have offered help with my charities as well. So it is another thing that makes us the perfect match.”
How much was your return about coming to Roma, and how much was it about returning to Rome?
“First and foremost I’m a footballer, so the joys and the things I experienced last season are one of the things I wanted to come back and experience, and to play with these players and this manager again. And the beauty is that it is in Rome as well, so it is almost like it is the complete package. Obviously it was a long and protracted negotiation - I was thankful that Roma stuck by me throughout I’m just very thankful that I am able to continue this journey and I’m hoping for many more successes.”
The club is now under new ownership – have you noticed any differences so far?
“Well I think when I first arrived I had all the fans when I landed, which was fabulous. Then when I came to Trigoria I saw Guido [Fienga, the CEO] and Ryan Friedkin as well. We were obviously very happy to meet again and be back here. But equally, I think obviously having the owners here at Trigoria, and yesterday he was out there watching the training session, it just brings us closer as a group. Ultimately we are a team, we are a family. I think I could probably count on one hand how many times I have seen the owner at other clubs, and I think for a lot of other players it is very rare to see the owner very close at the training ground most days, so I think that is only going to help us become a lot closer and achieve things together.”
(Photo AS Roma)