Chris Smalling faced the Italian media on Friday afternoon, as he was formally unveiled as a Roma player.
The England international joined the Giallorossi on a season-long loan last week, watching from the substitutes' bench as his new side drew 1-1 with Lazio in the Derby della Capitale.
Coming from the Premier League, how do you think the Italian league will be different?
“I think Serie A TIM has always been a goal of mine to play in one day, because as a defender if you get the chance to experience Serie A TIM you want to do it. I think I’ve played a lot in the Premier League and now I can bring my qualities that I’ve learned to Italy, and that is something I am looking forward to.”
What are your impressions of Paulo Fonseca so far?
“I spoke to him before I came to the club and he told me his goals, what he wanted from me. It was something that we totally agreed on. Coming in and having my first sessions, this week, I can see it is a team that wants to press, that wants to be aggressive. He wants a defender that is aggressive and can cope with the runs in behind and, yes, I think it is a perfect fit [for me]. It’s been a great first week of training and I am looking forward to getting stuck in.”
Does the tactical style mean the central defenders have more pressure on them, to cover things in a style of play like that?
“There is a lot of responsibility on the defence as a whole and the centre-backs too, but that is something I enjoy. I like to push up high, play high up the pitch, and the manager wants us to be high. I am a defender that likes to defend on the front foot so I think this is the perfect type of football for me and hopefully it allows me to show my real qualities.”
You’ve played in, and won, the Europa League before with Manchester United. Can Roma do well in the Europa League this season?
“I think this club definitely has a chance. We will be one of the favourites in the competition, obviously there are a few other clubs too, but Roma will be among the favourites. It has been great to have won it previously, but it would be even greater to win it here in Italy.”
You are here on loan for the season. But would you like to stay here for a while?
“I think this is an opportunity that came to me that I was very interested in, and I was very eager to come. It happened very quickly. I am very focused on the next game, getting up to speed with training and learning the manager’s methods. And then hopefully I want have a very good season. After that we will see. To have a chance at a big club, if it prolongs and the club is happy and I am happy, then I can definitely see a longer term future in Italy.”
What did you make of what happened with Lukaku? Is there a racism problem in Italy?
“I think racism is unacceptable and should not be stood for. It is not an issue just in Italy, it is around the world. There needs to be a change, there will be generational changes and younger people will have a different perspective. But it does happen, not just in Italy but around the world, and it is very sad and unacceptable that it still happens in these modern times.”
Loans are usually for younger players looking to gain experience, but you are already very experienced. Why a loan at this stage of your career, and why Roma?
“You are right, I am not a young player who has to prove himself – but I like new challenges. I had a great time in Manchester, but the oppportunity to experience a new league and with a new club like Roma… I don’t like to live my life with my regrets and this was a big opportunity. At Manchester we had high expectations, but here in Rome there are high expectations too. And that’s not easy, but it’s also a great challenge. It’s motivating, and now I have the chance to prove that the club was right to put their faith in me.”
Were there ever any doubts about coming here, considering your charity work and vegan diet?
“When I spoke to the club they knew the interest I had in my charity work, and also my vegan lifestyle. The club has put me at ease about that straight away. I’ve been speaking about the chef and the nutritionist and we are looking at different menus and things. I did not have any worries about that, from day one. The club has been great with me, helpful with everything I need from house-hunting to everything else, and that has immediately put me at ease.
“So I had no doubts at all. I’ve heard great things about Italy, and Rome itself, and it is something I was always looking forward to and will definitely savour.”
Few English players leave for Italy. Why did you come here?
“In England we don’t have many players who do go abroad, but I’ve always had a desire deep down to experience this and to have the opportunity to go to a big club with big aspirations, like I said before, is something I look forward to.
"I like to live my life with no regrets, so I am looking forward to build on this journey and make the most of it. And these two weeks of the international break have been the perfect opportunity for me to get to know the players, to get to know the style of play the manager wants to have, and to be ready for when Serie A TIM games start again.”
(Photo AS Roma)