Chris Smalling believes staying at Manchester United as a fringe player would have been an easy option for him and says he is ready to instead prove his worth at Roma.

The 29-year-old defender swapped Old Trafford for Stadio Olimpico last month in search of regular playing time following the £80million arrival of Harry Maguire at United.

Smalling was unwilling to play a bit-part role for the Red Devils and is hoping to improve his game during a season-long loan in Serie A.

"The easy decision was to stay. I had spoken to the manager before Harry came and I knew I was behind him and Victor [Lindelof]," he told The Telegraph. 

"But in previous seasons I had started behind [two first-choice centre-backs] and, after four or five games, I had worked myself into the team. 

"I love a challenge and when a new centre-back comes in, it makes you raise your game. You have to show more, you have to be more consistent.

"If I had stayed, I would have taken on that challenge and I would have been very confident that I would have played the number of games that I was worthy of. 

"Equally, I have a challenge here at Roma. Going back [to United], I will have an added element that some of the centre-backs won't have."

Revealing his discussions with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before leaving, Smalling said: "He told me I would get games. I am used to playing when I am fit - although that might have been slightly different this season. 

"I would have had the cup games and then in the league, depending on injuries. Would it have been the 40 to 50 games that I am used to if fit? It might have been the 20 to 30. Still a good number of games but I want to play."

Nicolo Zaniolo wants to fulfil the hopes Roma supporters have of him becoming the new Francesco Totti, even if his boyhood idol was former AC Milan star Kaka.

After scoring four goals in 27 Serie A appearances to help the Giallorossi finish sixth last season, Zaniolo has become an integral part of a squad with ambitions to break back into the top four this term.

The 20-year-old Italy international, who was playing for Virtus Entella in Serie B little over two years ago, is focused on staying grounded amid growing expectations on him at Stadio Olimpico.

"It's important to keep your feet on the ground at all times and I have a family behind me who do that, who understand football and who make sure I work my best at all times," Zaniolo told These Football Times.

"Beyond that, the only way to manage expectations is within myself. I can't listen to what others say, good or bad. I'm not Totti, but one day I hope to be as good.

"My hero undoubtedly was always Kaka, especially during his Milan years and for Brazil. I watched him a lot.

"For me, he was the perfect offensive midfielder: strong, technically perfect and capable of scoring and assisting. That is what I wanted to become as a kid and I still do now."

After impressing during his first season at Roma, Zaniolo signed a new five-year deal at the club amid reported interest in him from Tottenham and Bayern Munich.

The playmaker is competing with the likes of Justin Kluivert, Cengiz Under, Javier Pastore and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a place in the line of three creative players that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca likes to play behind lone striker Edin Dzeko.

Zaniolo said the experience of playing alongside Daniele De Rossi last season helped to keep him humble as he rose to stardom.

"Daniele was always a leader and a fantastic person, so it's easy to learn from him and other experienced players," said Zaniolo. "In fact, if you can't, there's something wrong."

Edin Dzeko said he hopes Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains at Roma for a "long time" after his goalscoring debut for the Serie A side.

Mkhitaryan arrived in the Italian capital on a season-long loan from Premier League outfit Arsenal before the transfer window closed in Europe.

And Mkhitaryan's first appearance for Roma yielded a goal in the 22nd minute as the Giallorossi beat visitors Sassuolo 4-2 on Sunday.

Dzeko, who was also on the scoresheet at Stadio Olimpico, hailed his new team-mate post-match.

"I expect it from him. I know him as a great player, and he is a very good addition to our attacking team who wants to play football," Dzeko said.

"I am 100 per cent sure he is going to be a big help for us. I was definitely happy to see this transfer happen.

"After we played for our national teams and he scored two goals against us I told him 'my friend, next games you have to score for Roma as well!'

"He's a great pro. I remember him also from Borussia Dortmund times and he will be a big player for us. Hopefully, he can stay a long time here.

"Hopefully he will [stay]. He will see that we are playing football here and immediately he scored a goal so hopefully, he can have more goals and a lot of assists for us."

Roma are unbeaten after three games with new head coach Paulo Fonseca at the helm – the club managing one win and two draws to be four points behind leaders Inter.

Roma loanee Henrikh Mkhitaryan says he chose to leave Arsenal in a bid to rediscover his affection for football.

Armenia captain Mkhitaryan made the switch to Stadio Olimpico on a season-long loan last week.

The former Manchester United playmaker struggled to make an impression in 18 months at Arsenal, starting half of the club's Premier League matches last term.

He featured in each of the first three fixtures this season but felt a move was necessary to reignite his love for the game.

"It was definitely my wish," Mkhitaryan said at Tuesday's presentation to the media.

"I wasn't playing often and I decided to make a change. I knew at Roma I would have had more chances. It will not have been easy for Arsenal, but now I'm here and I have the opportunity to perform.

"England now belongs to the past and I want to concentrate on Italy.

"Choosing Roma, I don't feel I've taken a step backwards because it's a great club. It was time for a change of scenery. It's important for a player to enjoy playing football, no matter where.

"In the last few months at Arsenal I no longer felt the same pleasure."

Mkhitaryan will be full of confidence for a potential Serie A debut against Sassuolo on Sunday after scoring twice in his country's 4-2 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The 30-year-old faced Italy three days earlier and performed well for Armenia in an eventual 3-1 defeat.

"I exchanged a few words with Alessandro [Florenzi] after the Italy game," he said. "Now the national teams are behind us and it's important to focus on Roma.

"My aim is to score as many goals and assists as possible to help the team."

Chris Smalling can foresee a long-term future for himself in Serie A if his loan at Roma from Manchester United goes to plan.

The 29-year-old defender swapped Old Trafford for Stadio Olimpico in search of playing time after falling out of the first-team picture at United.

Harry Maguire's arrival sent centre-back Smalling further down the pecking order and his hopes of returning to favour appear limited for as long as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains in charge.

Roma offered a way out and the 31-cap England international jumped to seize what could become more than a temporary lifeline.

"I think this is an opportunity that came to me that I was very interested in, and I was very eager to come," Smalling said.

"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 goes well and the club is happy and I am happy, then I can definitely see a longer-term future in Italy."

Smalling is "looking forward" to testing his defensive qualities in Serie A and will have an important part to play in the Europa League, for which his parent club have also qualified.

The former Fulham man says winning the competition with Roma would be more special than it was with United in 2017.

"I think this club definitely has a chance," he said.

"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."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unsure if he has a future at Arsenal after joining Serie A side Roma on loan.

The Armenia international joined Roma on a season-long loan on Monday, after just a season and a half at the Emirates Stadium.

Asked about his Arsenal future after Armenia's 3-1 loss to Italy in Euro 2020 qualifying on Thursday, Mkhitaryan said his focus was on Roma.

"Let's first see what I can do in Roma and at the end of the season I think we can talk if I will have the possibility to stay or to go to something else, I don't know," the midfielder told reporters, via VBET News.

"Now, I cannot say about future, it's better to be focused on the next games."

Roma have made a slow start to the Serie A season, playing out draws with Genoa and Lazio in their opening two games.

Asked about where he would prefer to play for Roma, Mkhitaryan said he was open to anything to help his side.

"I'm ready to play in every position and I'm ready to help the team because the club is great," he said.

"The team is a very good team and I'm going to try and do my best to help the team to achieve."

Nikola Kalinic claims Edin Dzeko convinced him to join Roma and believes the two strikers could form a successful front pairing.

Ex-Croatia international Kalinic secured a deadline-day loan switch to Stadio Olimpico after falling out of Diego Simeone's plans at Atletico Madrid.

The 31-year-old has prior experience in Italy with Fiorentina and AC Milan, scoring 33 times in 99 Serie A appearances.

Roma moved for a deputy to Dzeko after allowing Patrik Schick to leave for RB Leipzig but Kalinic wants to prove they can fit into the same side.

"I've spoken to Dzeko every day – he convinced me to come here," Kalinic said. "I think he's a great forward.

"The boss will decide whether we play with one or two strikers. I'm here to work hard and we'll see what happens. I'm happy in every position in the front line.

"I played on the left under [Paulo] Sousa [at Fiorentina]. I can play in a front two or in other formations."

Roma paid a €2million loan fee to capture Kalinic for the 2019-20 season and have an option to buy for a further €9m.

The former Blackburn Rovers man hopes to make an impression after a couple of lean campaigns in Milan and Madrid.

"First of all, I'd like to have an injury-free season because I've not played much over the past two years. I want to play more football this year," he said.

"We'll take things game by game – I won't say now that we'll win the Europa League or anything else.

"Roma want to play Champions League football. If we commit ourselves, game after game, we'll see where we end up."

The Giallorossi have taken two points from as many Serie A games under Paulo Fonseca, drawing against Genoa and Lazio.

Brazilian World Cup winner Cafu is mourning the death of his son, Danilo.

The Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo confirmed to Omnisport the passing of the former defender's eldest child.

No further information was provided in line with a request from the family.

Cafu's former clubs including Sao Paulo, Roma and AC Milan have expressed their sympathies.

On Twitter, Milan said: "Our Cafu has lost his son, Danilo. It's with a sad heart that we offer our deepest condolences to his family at this saddest of times."

Cafu's former team-mate at Roma, Francesco Totti, added: "I've seen him grow... it's not possible!!!! Rest in peace Danilo."

Cafu, 49, retired from playing in 2008 and has since held various ambassadorial roles. He won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and 2002.

Roma have signed Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan on loan, while the Serie A side have also lured Nikola Kalinic from Atletico Madrid.

Arsenal will receive a loan fee of €3 million, with a further €100,000 subject to specific performance targets being met.

Neither club has declared that there is an option to make Mkhitaryan's transfer permanent.

"It's a great opportunity for me to begin a new chapter, with a great club," the Armenia international told Roma's official website.

"I know what this club is all about and I am sure we can achieve great things together."

Roma loaned Chris Smalling from Manchester United and the Italian capital club raided the Premier League again for Mkhitaryan, who was part of the blockbuster deal that saw Alexis Sanchez swap Arsenal for United in January 2018.

The 30-year-old Armenian scored six goals in 39 appearances across all competitions last season.

Mkhitaryan, however, has been unable to cement his place in Unai Emery's starting XI, managing 88 minutes of Premier League action this term.

Roma have also completed the loan signing of former Croatia striker Kalinic, who previously played for Fiorentina and AC Milan.

Kalinic moved to Atletico in 2018 following a disappointing spell at Milan but the 31-year-old has struggled to make an impact in Madrid, where he managed only two LaLiga goals.

He arrives in Rome as a replacement for Patrik Schick, who has joined Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig on an initial one-season loan.

There is a purchase option of €9m included in the Kalinic deal, with Atleti receiving an initial €2m for the loan.

"It feels great, because I am joining a big club," he said.

"I am proud to become part of this team and this club. Roma has big history and I am very happy to be here."

RB Leipzig have signed Roma forward Patrik Shick on loan for the rest of the season.

The Bundesliga club will pay a fee of €3.5million, with a further €500,000 depending on certain performance-related conditions being met.

If Leipzig qualify for the 2020-21 Champions League, they will have the option to make Shick's transfer permanent for €29m.

The 23-year-old Czech Republic international joined Roma on an initial loan from Sampdoria in August 2017, having impressed with 11 goals in his maiden Serie A season.

A youth product from Sparta Prague, Shick had seen a proposed move to Juventus collapse despite undergoing a medical in Turin – a saga that seemingly lingered over an underwhelming start to life in Italy's capital.

Over the course of 57 appearances for Roma in all competitions, he managed eight goals and will now look for a new lease of life with Julian Nagelsmann's Bundesliga pacesetters.

"I am very happy to be part of this great, young team and look forward to my new job," Shick, who has eight goals in 18 appearances for the Czech Republic, told his new club's official website.

"Of course, I came here to help the team and achieve our goals together. I am glad that everything worked out in the end with RB Leipzig."

Leipzig are the only team in Germany's top flight with a 100 per cent record from their opening three matches and host Bayern Munich in a mouth-watering clash on their return to action following the international break.

Roma have bolstered their attacking options on transfer deadline day with the loan signing of Nikola Kalinic from Atletico Madrid, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan also on the verge of completing a switch from Arsenal.

Arsenal winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arrived in Rome ahead of his mooted loan move to Roma.

The Armenia international joined in January 2018 as part of the infamous swap deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move to Manchester United, but he has generally underwhelmed in London.

Mkhitaryan, 30, made only 19 starts in the Premier League last season and struggled to convince Unai Emery he was worthy of more regular appearances.

Although he made a substitute appearance in Sunday's north London derby draw with Tottenham, Arsenal have opted to let the midfielder depart.

Much like Sanchez, who has left United on loan for Inter, Mkhitaryan's next challenge will also be in Serie A, having arrived at Rome airport.

Mkhitaryan was photographed with a Roma scarf upon his arrival and he will become the club's second loan acquisition from the Premier League in the last week, as he links up with former United team-mate Chris Smalling.

Roma will hope Mkhitaryan can finally rediscover the form he showed at Borussia Dortmund, when he scored 11 goals and provided a league-high 15 assists in the 2015-16 Bundesliga campaign.

Real Madrid look set to finally land a midfielder before the transfer window closes.

The LaLiga giants have been linked to numerous midfielders and, after a slow start to the season, they may make a signing ahead of the window shutting on Monday.

Madrid are reportedly close to strengthening their squad by completing a move for Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID CLOSE TO SEALING FERNANDES DEAL

Real Madrid have almost completed a deal for Fernandes, according to ESPN.

The Portugal international, 24, was linked to Manchester United and Tottenham earlier in the window.

Now, the Sporting captain looks set for Madrid, who have reportedly targeted United's Paul Pogba, Spurs' Christian Eriksen and Ajax's Donny van de Beek during the close season.

It comes just days after Fiorentina sporting director Daniele Prade said Fernandes was heading to Madrid for €70million.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Neymar saga will finally end – for now – with the Paris Saint-Germain star staying with the Ligue 1 champions. L'Equipe reports the Brazil international will remain with PSG, while Sport reports Barcelona will resume their pursuit of Neymar in 2020.

- That could mean a few more eyes on Mauro Icardi on Monday. PSG are in talks with Inter over a potential loan deal for the forward, according to RMC Sport and Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Pogba may still be hoping to eventually get his move to Real Madrid. The Mirror reports the France international will resist signing a new deal with Premier League giants Manchester United, with his current contract running until 2021, although the club have an option to extend that by a year.

- Javier Hernandez should get a deadline-day move from West Ham. The Premier League club have agreed to sell the forward to Sevilla for close to €8.9m (£8m), according to Sky Sports News.

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan came off the bench during Arsenal's draw against Tottenham on Sunday and he could be on his way out of the Emirates Stadium a day later. Roma are pressing hard to sign the midfielder on loan with an option to buy, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Phil Foden may have to wait for his chances at Manchester City, but the Premier League champions are keen to keep the teenage midfielder in their squad. The Sun reports City rejected loan bids from Rangers and Roma for the England youth international.

Lazio and Roma drew 1-1 in the Derby della Capitale in Serie A on Sunday, a thrilling game in which the woodwork was hit an incredible six times - a Serie A record since Opta began recording such data in 2003-04.

Lucas Leiva's third-minute volley rattled the post and Nicolo Zaniolo also hit the frame of the goal before Roma took the lead in the 17th minute.

Ex-Lazio left-back Aleksandar Kolarov slotted in a penalty awarded after Edin Dzeko's cross was blocked by the arm of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, giving Roma their 1-0 advantage.

Lazio's front two struck the same post in quick succession, Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa denied, before fine margins continued to rule a chaotic derby when Roma's Zaniolo hit the woodwork for the second time.

Simone Inzaghi's men levelled in the 58th minute. Kolarov was robbed by Milinkovic-Savic, who sent Immobile clear and the striker cleverly fed Luis Alberto to smash home.

Remarkably the woodwork would come into play again as Lazio's Marco Parolo curled a glorious effort on to the face of the crossbar with four minutes to go.

Lazio then thought they had won it in added time when Manuel Lazzari hammered in, but substitute Jony had run offside to deliver the low cross from the byline.

Roma have signed Chris Smalling on a season-long loan from Manchester United, the Serie A club announced.

Smalling signed a contract extension at Old Trafford running until 2022 last December, three days before then-manager Jose Mourinho was sacked.

The 29-year-old continued to feature under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the arrival of Harry Maguire during the close season left him down the pecking order at centre-back.

He has consequently opted for a temporary move to Roma, who paid United €3million (£2.7m) to seal the deal.

"This is the perfect opportunity for me," Smalling said in a statement.

"The chance to experience a new league, with a big team that has got big aspirations is exactly what I needed.

"Hopefully I can hit the ground running. I'm looking forward to joining up with my team-mates."

Roma sporting director Gianluca Petrachi added: "We are pleased to bring a player like Chris, who has so much experience, to Roma. We are convinced he will help the growth of this squad and all the lads he plays alongside."

Like the similarly long-serving Phil Jones, Smalling has not managed a minute of first-team action this season, with Solskjaer preferring Axel Tuanzebe as back-up to Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

Smalling has 31 caps for England but has not featured since June 2017, having fallen out of favour with national team boss Gareth Southgate.

Roma shared a thrilling 3-3 draw with Genoa on the opening weekend of the Serie A season.

Smalling was identified as the man to shore up a Roma defence shorn of the influential Kostas Manolas, who joined Napoli ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has completed a medical ahead of his proposed loan move to Roma.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed a deal was close on Friday, with Smalling having travelled to Italy to finalise a transfer to the Stadio Olimpico.

Smalling made 24 Premier League appearances last season, though with Harry Maguire's arrival for a record fee, the 29-year-old has been allowed to leave, having not made an appearance so far this campaign.

The move now looks to be nearing completion, with Roma posting pictures of Smalling undergoing his medical on their official Twitter account.

Smalling's departure comes after Alexis Sanchez joined Roma's Serie A rivals Inter on loan, while Matteo Darmian is also set to sign for Parma, though the former Fulham centre-back could still have a future at Old Trafford, according to Solskjaer.

"There haven't been a lot of English players in Italy. I think he'll enjoy the experience and I'm sure he'll come back stronger and better for it," Solskjaer told a news conference earlier on Friday.

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