Mixed reports are coming from Italy in regard to Christ Smalling this week, with some reports claiming the deal has almost completely broken down and others claiming it is almost sealed.
The 31-year-old has become something of a cult hero at Roma this season whilst on loan from the Red Devils, having put in some fine performances at the heart of their defence.
However, the two clubs have been poles apart in terms of a valuation to make the deal permanent with United reported to be asking €25 million (£22.4 million) for the 31-year-old and the Italians unwilling or unable to go much beyond €13 million (£11.6m).
United reportedly started at €20 million but bumped up the fee just before the January window opened after the player’s impressive performances led them to believe that they could start a bidding war for his services.
The negotiations then reached an impasse and with the Red Devils refusing to budge, the Giallorossi started to look elsewhere. Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen, who will be available on a free transfer at the end of the season, has been identified as a good alternative.
However, the Romans’ number one choice remains Smalling.
This is where the conflicting reports come in. Il Messaggero reports that ‘On Friday United asked [Roma’s CEO Guido] Fienga for the same [€25 million] amount, who replied negatively.
‘The operation, in fact, although diluted over time, would in this way cost about forty million gross [£36m] between the fee and the three-year contract of 3 million a year to the player. Too much for the club’s accounts.’
The outlet goes on to claim that Roma have as a result swiftly shifted their attentions to Vertonghen.
‘And so, in a few hours – thanks to Baldini’s work – relations with the free agent Vertonghen were quickly and furiously restored.
‘The Giallorossi at the beginning of April had frozen the possibility, convinced that they could retain Smalling.
‘If the inability to redeem Smalling is confirmed (tomorrow there will be new contact between the player and Manchester United), [Roma head coach Paulo] Fonseca gave his ok to the arrival of Vertonghen.’
Meanwhile, according to radio station Tele Radio Stereo (via football-italia.net), United and Roma have actually already reached an agreement in principle for the England man in which he will be loaned back to the Giallorossi for another season with an obligation to buy.
‘The Giallorossi are edging closer to an agreement with his parent club.
‘The idea would be to sign Smalling on to another loan deal with obligation to buy at the end of the 2020-21 season.
‘It would effectively be a purchase, but with the payment spread out over two years.
‘Manchester United had originally wanted €25m, but seem to have been negotiated down to €17-18m.’
An interesting twist in this tale could come in the form of the Europa League. Set to resume in August, both United and Roma could meet in the competition if they both progress. If the deal does go through, it may be that Smalling will find himself lining up against his former club before the season has even reached its conclusion.
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