Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham both revelled in Roma's Europa Conference League triumph after defeating Feyenoord 1-0 in Wednesday's final in Tirana.

Nicolo Zaniolo's lone goal proved the difference for the Giallorossi, chesting Gianluca Mancini's pass over the top of the defence to poke the ball home past Justin Bijlow in the 32nd minute.

While Abraham top-scored for the team over the tournament with nine goals, Smalling turned in a man-of-the-match performance at centre-back to help secure Roma's maiden European trophy.

One of the first in a modern wave of Englishmen playing abroad in Europe's top five leagues, Smalling was well aware of Roma's continental drought, insisting it motivated the team.

"We knew how much it was going to mean to everybody in Rome, and you can see how together we are, everybody fought until the end," Smalling told BT Sport.

"We had to do that on a few occasions this year, we dropped a bit deeper than we maybe wanted to but we knew we had to do everything. You could see, strikers running back, everybody defending and we knew we had to win.

"Even when I first came to the club it had been a long time since they won a trophy, you can hear the fans. We knew how much it was going to mean, you can see we've got some of the best fans."

Abraham had previously stated he was reticent to play in the Serie A, believing it would take him out of the frame for England selection.

With 27 goals in 52 games in all competitions this season, Abraham is part of Gareth Southgate's squad for the June international window along with Fikayo Tomori, who this weekend wrapped up the Serie A title with Milan.

The 24-year-old Abraham believes Roma deserved their victory on the night, while his reception in Italy has inspired him.

"One thing I said when I came here was I was going to help the team get to the final and one day I want to win a trophy," Abraham also told BT Sport. "In my first season I have achieved that.

"Credit to my team-mates, excellent performances. We deserve it. We have worked hard all year.

"I love them (the fans). From day one I came here it has been the best. We are champions, I am happy to be a part of the team, now it is time to celebrate and enjoy."

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Jose Mourinho has quickly returned to work following his Tottenham departure last month.

Roma confirmed on Tuesday the 'Special One' would be taking over as their coach from the start of next season, replacing Paulo Fonseca.

For Mourinho, it means a return to a familiar league and some familiar faces – both within the Giallorossi dressing room and among the opposition.

Using Opta data, we take a look at what the Eternal City might be able to expect from Mourinho.

Mourinho may suit Smalling

Mourinho is likely to be more warmly welcomed by one former Manchester United man than another in the Roma team.

Centre-back Chris Smalling was a regular when fit under the Portuguese at Old Trafford.

Despite dealing with a number of issues during Mourinho's tenure, only David de Gea (113) and Paul Pogba (100) made more starts than Smalling's 91 in all competitions.

The former England defender led all United players in blocks (91), clearances (546) and aerial duels won (346) over this time.

United kept clean sheets in 36 of Smalling's 100 outings and he has continued this form in Italy to establish himself as Roma's main man at the back and someone Mourinho will surely rely on.

On the other hand, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was one of Mourinho's first signings in Manchester but struggled to convince the manager.

Although the midfielder contributed 13 goals, 10 assists and 96 key passes across 63 matches, he was used as a makeweight in the ill-fated Alexis Sanchez transfer in January 2018.

He will hope to get a second chance having joined Roma following a similarly unsuccessful stint with Arsenal.

War with San Siro successor

This is Mourinho's second job in Serie A after a hugely successful stretch at Inter where he won the treble. Only last weekend did the Nerazzurri claim the Scudetto for the first time since that triumph.

Mourinho's old rival Antonio Conte was the man to oversee this latest success, however, and there could well be fireworks when they go head to head again next season.

Conte was the next full-time Chelsea coach after Mourinho's second Stamford Bridge stay ended with a feeble title defence in 2015-16.

There was a rivalry then between the pair in the Premier League, the highlights including Mourinho describing Conte as "a clown on the touchline" before the current Inter boss returned fire: "I consider him a little man, I consider him a man with a very low profile."

Conte, a champion again with Inter, will be confident he can get the better of the Roma coach in 2021-22, though.

Mourinho has beaten Conte sides only twice in seven attempts, losing four times – including in their most recent meeting, an FA Cup final win for the Italian in 2018.

Jose back to his best?

That Inter stretch is widely remembered as Mourinho's peak – or at least his second peak.

He won as many titles in two seasons (two) as he has in 11 years since, while 2009-10 also brought his second and most recent Champions League crown.

Mourinho's win rate of 62.0 per cent was actually down on his prior two roles at Porto (69.6) and Chelsea (66.9) and his subsequent posting at Real Madrid (71.9).

But those lofty San Siro standards are some way clear of the level Mourinho has been operating at in recent seasons.

He won only 51.2 per cent of his matches at Tottenham and left without lifting a single trophy, albeit he was sacked just days before the EFL Cup final.

If Mourinho is to improve on that return with Roma, who are seventh in Serie A at present, he will have some work to do.

But the former Inter favourite has previously proven himself up to the task in Italy.

Roma defender Chris Smalling cannot imagine a bigger game than his return to Manchester United for Thursday's Europa League semi-final first leg, although he said playing behind closed doors is disappointing.

Smalling, who only returned from a knee injury against Cagliari last week, made more than 300 appearances for United across almost a decade before initially joining Roma on loan in 2019 – a deal that became permanent the following year.

A two-time Premier League winner with United, Smalling will line up against his former team-mates in the opening leg of the final-four showdown at Old Trafford.

"It's a special game, it's a semi-final, added on top it's playing against United," former England international Smalling told reporters.

"Obviously being in Rome for nearly the last two years I know the importance of bringing home a trophy because it's been far too long.

"There are so many ingredients that I don't think there'll be a bigger game to be a part of. I'm just thankful that I'm now fit and I'm able to contribute because the whole squad needs every player."

Smalling's reunion at Old Trafford will be played without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'd admit that's one disappointment not to have a full house and likewise to even have my friends and family watching two clubs that have been a big part of my career," Smalling said.

"That's one unfortunate thing but it doesn't take away the emotion side because it's very rare when you go onto a pitch and you know every player on the pitch.

"In such a big game as well, I think it's got all the ingredients to put on one of your best performances."

Smalling's United exit came during the early stages of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as he moved to the Italian capital on loan two years ago.

The 31-year-old Smalling said he had nothing against the Norwegian manager about his departure.

"When [Solskjaer] first came in I was injured but when I got fit he played me and we had a good relationship," Smalling added.

"We had very honest conversations in the summer but now we'll meet on the pitch and I'm really looking forward to it."

Smalling missed six weeks with the knee injury that he only returned from against Cagliari on Sunday.

"Personally I'm feeling good," he said. "It's no secret that I have missed a lot of games this season which is very unusual for me.

"But coming into this game I'm feeling fit. I'm feeling ready to contribute."

Roma will be looking for their first European victory away to English opponents since February 2001 (1-0 against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup), having failed to win any of their last 12 such games against seven different English sides (D4 L8).

Meanwhile, Roma have lost all three of their previous away games against United, conceding nine goals and scoring just once in return. This will be their first such trip since April 2008, when they lost 1-0 in a Champions League quarter-final.

Former Manchester United star Chris Smalling has spoken of the "harm and distress" his family felt after an armed burglary at their home in Rome.

Now playing for Roma, who will face United in the Europa League semi-finals, the 31-cap England international had his home raided in the early hours of Friday.

According to reports in Italy, Smalling handed over three Rolex watches, jewellery and money to the three men who entered the property in the Appia Antica district of Italy's capital.

Police were called after the terrifying incident, and 31-year-old Smalling wrote on Twitter on Saturday: "I'd like to thank everyone for your well wishes and support! My family although very shaken up are luckily unharmed!

"Hoping these people can find a more meaningful way to live their lives without causing such harm and distress to others."

Former United team-mate Marcus Rashford sent a message of support to Smalling on Friday, saying he was "so sorry" to hear of the break-in.

Rashford added: "Thinking about you @ChrisSmalling and your lovely family. Can’t imagine how you're feeling but I hope you're ok."

Smalling has been injured recently and did not play on Thursday when Roma edged past Ajax to reach the Europa League last four.

Marcus Rashford sent his support to Chris Smalling after the former Manchester United defender was reportedly a victim of an armed burglary.

Smalling and his family were said to have been at home in the Appia Antica district of Rome when three men with guns broke into the property and demanded a safe be opened.

The burglars reportedly fled with Rolex watches and jewellery and a small sum of cash.

La Gazzetta dello Sport said that a call to police was made by Smalling's wife at around 05:00 local time (04:00 GMT) on Friday, with an investigation subsequently launched.

United striker Rashford sent a message to his former club-mate, writing on Twitter: "Thinking about you @ChrisSmalling and your lovely family. So sorry to wake up to the news this morning. Can’t imagine how you're feeling but I hope you're ok."

Smalling has been injured recently and did not play on Thursday when Roma edged past Ajax to reach the Europa League semi-finals, with United awaiting them in the last four.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.