Smalling set for Serie A experience

Manchester United
Chris Smalling could return after seven weeks on the sidelines when Manchester United host Burnley in the Premier League this evening.

English players have had limited success in Serie A over recent years, but Chris Smalling will be hoping to buck that trend if he joins Roma.

Manchester United defender Smalling is being heavily linked with a season-long loan move to the Stadio Olimpico and if he were to join the Giallorossi then he would become the third Englishman to be currently plying his trade in Serie A alongside Juventus youngster Stephy Mavididi and Sampdoria midfielder Ronaldo Vieira.

While Mavididi and Vieira are still at the development stages of their careers, it is fair to say Smalling, who only signed a new deal with United last summer, would be expected to have an immediate impact on the Roma first team.

Smalling is certainly capable of becoming a pivotal figure in Paulo Fonseca’s side, although the recent record of senior English players in Italy would suggest that he may have his work cut out.

Over the last few years, Joe Hart, Ashley Cole and Micah Richards have all spent unmemorable spells in Serie A, with the latter two only making a combined 18 starts between them during their time with Roma and Fiorentina respectively.

Even Hart’s stint at Torino was fleeting, as, although he was the regular first choice during his time at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, they ultimately opted against making the move permanent.

A theme with a number of English players that have played in Serie A is they do not hang around for long, this has been particularly true over recent years, with Jay Bothroyd, Danny Dichio and Lee Sharpe all enduring short uninspiring spells with Perugia, Lecce and Sampdoria respectively.

Indeed, arguably the last Englishman to enjoy success in Serie A was Paul Ince, who impressed during a two-season spell with Inter Milan in the mid-1990s, while David Platt did the rare thing of playing for multiple Italian clubs, most notably as he helped Juventus lift the UEFA Cup in 1993.

The most memorable Englishman to play in Italy over the last 30 years has to be Paul Gascoigne, who enjoyed a great relationship with the Lazio fans during his three years with the club, although he didn’t always receive the same positive attention from the local media.

During the 1980s players such as Ray Wilkins and Mark Hately flew the English flag in Serie A with AC Milan and both players are still remembered fondly by fans of the Rossoneri.

So, while there is a precedent for English players to succeed in Serie A, if Smalling does head to Italy then he will have to buck a trend that has seen many of his compatriots struggle over recent years.