With Manchester United officially announcing the signing of Victor Lindelof to bolster their backline, the future of Chris Smalling is getting called into question. The 27-year-old was publicly criticized this last season by manager Jose Mourinho, who claimed that the player was not willing to play through the pain barrier for him.
Everton meanwhile are also looking to upgrade their defence, with Ronald Koeman being a vocal admirer of Michael Keane and other names mentioned as well, including Florentin Pogba, brother of United’s Paul Pogba.
Arsenal are the bookmakers’ favourites to pick up the England international, with Arsene Wenger looking to add a centre-half to fit his three-man backline that he seemed to find success with late in the season.
Tottenham Hotspur are also being mentioned by the bookies, but Smalling is unlikely to go to a situation like that where Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld have a solid partnership.
The defender has 30 England caps making his debut in 2011. He featured in 36 games for the Red Devils in a very hectic season that ended with the club winning the Europa League, a tournament that Everton will be involved in this coming season. Smalling joined United from Fulham during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign in 2010, making 243 appearances, scoring 13 goals, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the EFL Cup as well as the Europa League.
Koeman has often talked about the necessity of having four starting-level centre-halves. While Keane remains Everton’s first choice, Smalling could be an intriguing additional possibility, and if Mourinho indeed does let him go, the Blues could do worse than have a starting pairing of Keane and Smalling with Ashley Williams and Ramiro Funes Mori as backups.
Smalling, who was recently voted as United’s Players' Player of the Year, clarified his injury situation in an interview last week ahead of England duty -
“I had a couple of injections because I wanted to play that [Chelsea] game and obviously soon after that it got worse and that’s when I had to have the lay-off. You always want to push yourself because you don’t want to let the fans down or the players. I’ve just had an unfortunate season with injuries but I’m fit now.
“I think in the Chelsea game I proved that I can play with the injections. To be honest, I don’t think any player is ever 100 per cent. There’s always something. As players, it’s not about always being 100 per cent. It’s about going on the pitch and doing a job. We’re always managing things – that’s why we have so many physios and getting your stretches and whatever.”