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Chris Smalling robbed at home in Italy in front of his wife and child - Susan Wright

Chris Smalling robbed at home in Italy in front of his wife and child – Susan Wright

Chris Smalling, the Roma defender, has been robbed at home in front of his wife and two-year-old child, according to reports in Italy.

Three armed robbers broke into the former England international’s Rome property and forced him to open his family’s safe, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

The raiders took jewellery and other valuable items during the swoop on his multi-million pound property in the historic Appia Antica district south of the city.

Police were alerted just before 5am on Friday by Smalling’s wife Sam, with officers now hunting for “three armed and hooded men”.

Smalling, who was out of Europa League action this week while he recovers from a knee injury, and his young family were said to be very distressed.

During the raid on their villa, the gang made off with his Rolex watch, as well as jewellery and “other precious” items, the Italian newspaper reports. Roma were this morning supporting the family.

Smalling, who joined the Italian club from Manchester United on a permanent deal last year, married Sam, 35, a glamour model, in June 2017 and they welcomed their young son Leo just before they moved out to the Italian capital.

Cases of footballers being targeted by gangs is on the increase across Europe. A host of PSG stars have been targeted in Paris, and, earlier this year, the home of Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie was burgled.

Smalling, who signed for Roma last year after a successful loan spell, won two Premier League titles with Manchester United, who his new club have been drawn against in the Europa League semi-final.

Alex Bomberg, whose Intelligent Protection firm provides security for a host of footballers and celebrities, said the case underlined the need for improved security around the elite clubs.

“Sadly, these types of incidents will continue to take place until clubs drive change in the area of personal security of players and their families,” he told Telegraph Sport. “We are not talking about opportune thieves here, we are talking about organised crime – these types of robberies are generally well organised and to date there have been very few arrests made internationally concerning these criminal gangs.”