Chris Smalling believes he has returned to a stronger Roma than the one he was part of last season.
The English defender has joined the club on a permanent basis after a successful loan spell from Manchester United last season.
It took right until the transfer deadline to complete the deal for Smalling, but it finally went through, leaving the 30-year-old with a huge sense of relief.
On Wednesday afternoon, Smalling sat in front of the media to be presented as a Roma player for the second time – and he elaborated on how happy he is to have returned.
He said: “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.”Embed from Getty Images
Smalling won several trophies during his Manchester United career, but was unable to inspire Roma to similar success last season. However, he remains confident the club can end their trophy drought this year.
“I think pure happiness, [especially] when I first arrived,” he said of his return. “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.”
“Olé, olé olé olé, Smalling, Smalling!”— Giallorossi Yorkshire (@RomaYorkshire) October 6, 2020
What a reception as the defender lands in Rome! 💛❤️pic.twitter.com/wMcmUNWwSm
Those fans admire Smalling to such an extent that there have been calls for him to become captain of the team. Current club captain Edin Dzeko came close to leaving the club over the summer, while Smalling wore the armband on one occasion last season.
However, Smalling insists Dzeko still deserves to lead the team – even if he sees himself as a leader as well.
“I think we have here one of the best captains, that most teams in the world would want, in Edin.
“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.”Embed from Getty Images
Quite a lot has changed in the few months since Smalling was last at the club, with the Friedkin Group having taken over as the new owners.
And Smalling finished by saying it was a big boost for the owners to be present at the training complex.
“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.”