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Chris Smalling dismisses Jose Mourinho’s incapable of ‘playing through pain’ criticism

Chris Smalling has dismissed Jose Mourinho’s criticism that he “isn’t capable of playing through pain” and has reinforced his commitment to Roma amid a four-month injury layoff.

In November, Mourinho questioned the time it was taking for the 34-year-old defender to recover from a knee problem, stating: “he doesn’t even know what the weather is like because it’s been that long since he’s been outside”.

Mourinho was sacked on Tuesday and in an Instagram post on Thursday, Smalling stated his priority from his rehab was “guaranteeing I can play for AS Roma for years to come”.

“Let me start by clarifying that I have never asked to, nor even contemplated, leaving this great club,” he wrote. “Speaking openly, the last few months have proved to be some of the most frustrating of my career. There are things in this game and in life that we can control, and others we simply can’t. This injury has been one thing that we couldn’t

“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 has hit back at Mourinho (Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Smalling explained his treatment plan had been “guided by specialists” who had recommended he did not undergo surgery on the knee problem, which has kept him out since September. His posted ended with a thank you to Mourinho following his departure.

The centre-back played for Mourinho during his two years in charge at Manchester United, before moving to Roma in 2019, where he was joined by his former United manager in May 2021.

Smalling started the first three matches of the 2023-24 Serie A season but has not featured since September 1 because of his knee injury.

Speaking in November, Mourinho said: “Regarding Smalling, the injury is very much there. There are also regular people like us, who aren’t high-performance athletes, who have a greater pain threshold. Maybe I can sleep fine with toothache, maybe you struggle. That’s how it is.

“Smalling isn’t capable of playing through pain. He holds something back. His specific issue is a real challenge. It’s really frustrating for me because his position — centre back — is where we’re most desperate for players. But that’s how it is. We’ve just got to be patient. I shouldn’t beat myself up or criticise him. We’ll just wait and see when he’s ready.

“He spent the whole of this week with the medical team. He’s not at a point where he’s splitting his time evenly between the doctors and the coaching staff, be it in the gym or on the pitch. He doesn’t even know what the weather is like because it’s been that long since he’s been outside. That’s holding him back.”

Former club captain Daniele De Rossi has been appointed until the end of the season with Roma sitting ninth in Serie A.

Roma return to action on Saturday with the visit of Gerona.

(Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

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