Roma lifted their first trophy since the 2007-08 campaign in their first full season under Jose Mourinho, but that came as no surprise to Giallorossi centre-back Chris Smalling.
Smalling left Manchester United in 2020 for Rome, where he linked up with former Red Devils manager Mourinho after the Portuguese coach was appointed last year.
Mourinho headed back to Italy following his sacking by Tottenham after just 17 months in charge of the Premier League side, and guided Roma to sixth in Serie A in 2021-22.
Though his team failed to keep pace with Italy’s top four, Mourinho managed to deliver European success in the inaugural Europa Conference League, beating Feyenoord 1-0 in the final.
That made the 59-year-old just the second manager to win five major European titles after Giovanni Trapattoni, and the first coach to lift such trophies with four different teams.
Mourinho went as far as marking the achievement with a tattoo on his right arm picturing his European honours, and Smalling says success was bound to happen after his Roma appointment.
“The coach is always the same, he is a leader with such a strong character that he has forged over the years with successes,” Smalling told Il Corriere dello Sport.
“A great coach like Mourinho who enjoys enormous esteem all over the world is the perfect profile for Roma, it is no coincidence that he won immediately, in the first season.”
The lure of Mourinho has reportedly secured the services of free agent Paulo Dybala, whose contract expired at Juventus at the end of last season.
With Mile Svilar, Nemanja Matic and Zeki Celik already signed this transfer window, Smalling believes Roma will continue improving to compete with the likes of Inter, Juve, Napoli and Milan.
“I like this team, it is normal for expectations to rise and the bar to move upwards,” added Smalling, who made 27 Serie A appearances last season.
“We found good continuity at the end of last season, which we lacked before when we had left points on the road. The backbone of the team is good, the group is united, we know the coach, who has been working with us for a year.
“All the teams can improve, whoever arrives would be an important addition. I think this should be the minimum goal for Roma.
“This club has been out of major European competition for too long. We must be in the top four to participate in the Champions League and then try to win another trophy.”
Smalling’s contract is set to expire next June but the 32-year-old insists his focus remains solely on Roma.
“The priority for me is to play and help the team and then things will come,” he continued. “I think I can still be useful. You can’t escape your age, but you have the years you feel.
“I have always tried not to have regrets, I play every game as if it were the last, I always go out on the pitch to give everything, to leave no stone unturned.
“I have not changed today that I am 32, I have always faced one game at a time.”