Ex-Man Utd star hits back at Jose Mourinho as Roma sacking leaves bitter taste | Football | Sport

Roma star Chris Smalling has finally hit back after Jose Mourinho accused the former Manchester United defender of having no pain threshold. Smalling missed the final four months of Mourinho’s Roma reign through injury and was called out by the axed head coach in November.

Mourinho grew frustrated over Smalling’s injury record while the pair were together at Old Trafford. That sentiment heightened after the Portuguese tactician was appointed as manager at Roma in 2021.

Earlier this season, the 60-year-old claimed Smalling “isn’t capable of playing through pain” and “holds something back”. He brutally added that there are people “who aren’t high-performance athletes who have a greater pain threshold” and added “maybe I can sleep fine with toothache, [but] maybe you struggle”.

Mourinho’s comments appeared to imply that Smalling was not entirely committed to his duties at Roma and prompted reports in the Italian media that the 34-year-old wanted to leave the club. However, Smalling has now hit back following Mourinho’s sacking earlier this week.

Writing on Instagram, the former England international said: “Let me start by clarifying that I have never asked to, nor even contemplated, leaving this great club.

“No footballer wants to spend their days in a treatment room, and this period of time away from my teammates has challenged me, with setback after setback.

“I have, and will always, put the needs of my teammates first, but the absolute priority for the medical team is to guarantee that I can play a significant role in the latter part of the season and for seasons to come.”

Smalling joined Roma from United in an £18m transfer in 2019. He has not played since September 1 due to a small tear in his patella tendon. He has rubbished speculation that he has gone against the advice of medics and that he turned down surgery.

He added: “Guided only by specialists, I have been open to all solutions, short and long, and any insinuation that I have dictated a treatment plan are false.

“With surgery not an option proposed by any specialist I have engaged with, I have to trust the expertise that guides my recovery plan which, contrary to popular belief, does include painkillers. A lot of them, in fact.”

Mourinho accused Smalling of failing to go through the pain barrier during his time at United. In November 2016, he said the two-time Premier League champion “doesn’t feel that he can play 100 per cent without pain”.

He later told Smalling and team-mate Phil Jones they were too “cautious” in declaring themselves fit for matches and urged them to be “brave”. Mourinho, who won the Conference League in his first season at Roma, was sacked by the Italian club after a disappointing start to the campaign saw them ninth in Serie A.

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