Tammy Abraham can cement Roma legacy in Europa Conference League after flourishing since brave Chelsea exit

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When Jose Mourinho was seeking to persuade Tammy Abraham to join Roma last summer, he offered him a straight choice between rain in London and sunshine in the Italian capital.

There are two things to note about this ultimatum. One is that, in typical Mourinho fashion, it was designed with only results in mind, conveniently ignoring the fact that, on average, Rome receives far more annual rainfall than London. The second is that the tale has been trotted out so many times, in so many interviews since, that it has rather lost its charm.

And yet with each retelling as the season has gone on, it has come to look more prophetic, the growing turbulence at Chelsea at odds with what, at least on a personal level, has been an unqualified success of a debut campaign at the Stadio Olimpico for Abraham, rewarding the gutsy decision to swap his home city for the eternal one in a £36million move.

The 22-year-old has scored 17 Serie A goals this term, breaking Gerry Hitchen’s 1961-62 record for an Englishman in the division, and 27 in all competitions, including nine in 12 games in the Europa Conference League, the inaugural final of which Roma play in tonight, against Dutch side Feyenoord.

As with close friend Fikayo Tomori at AC Milan, after an early career punctuated by frequent loans and only sporadic opportunities at Stamford Bridge, Abraham appears to have found an unlikely home in Italy, thriving on the challenges of a new experience, culture and footballing style, even if his linguistic skills are not quite yet up to the standard set by his fellow Cobham academy graduate.

Tammy Abraham has flourished since swapping Chelsea for Roma last summer (Getty Images)
Tammy Abraham has flourished since swapping Chelsea for Roma last summer (Getty Images)

“My heart is here,” Abraham said (in English) last week, when asked about his future beyond the end of the campaign. “I fell in love with this club from the first day.”

That stance may yet be tested, with so many of the Premier League’s wealthy, leading clubs seeking a centre-forward this summer. But even if his Italian love affair proves no more than a 12-month fling, in Tirana this evening Abraham has the chance to cement an instant legacy.

Perhaps because of the majesty of Francesco Totti and the success under Fabio Capello that coincided with the golden age of Gazzetta Football Italia on our screens in the late 90s and early 2000s, there tends to be an overestimation of Roma’s historic standing among casual British observers.

The Giallorossi have won just three league titles in their history (the last came in 2001, the penultimate year of Channel 4’s Serie A coverage), making them only the eighth-most successful club in Italian football, and have not won a trophy of any kind since lifting the 2008 Coppa Italia. In Europe, they have never won a major trophy at all.

For all it remains up for debate whether the Conference League meets that criteria, Roma’s fans have eventually embraced Uefa’s third-tier competition, selling out the Olimpico for the semi-final win against Leicester, a relatively rare occurrence.

They have done likewise with Abraham, whose header against the Foxes put the Italians in tonight’s final. Prove the difference again, and his place in Roman history would be swiftly secured.

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