Tammy Abraham’s journey to becoming the third ever English Roma player

Roma have another Englishman among their ranks, with Tammy Abraham joining to mark the first time the club have ever had two British players in the same squad.

The club’s new €40m man, Abraham made his move from Chelsea official on Tuesday, ensuring he will be part of the same squad as compatriot Chris Smalling.

Smalling made a very bright start to his Roma career when joining in 2019 and Abraham will be aiming for a similar initial impression – or at least one better than Ashley Cole managed.

But, despite the fact that he has been Chelsea’s top scorer for two seasons in a row, Abraham was not the most well-known name to some Roma fans before his move. So, for those less familiar, what is his story up to now?

Born in Camberwell, south London, on the 2nd of October 1997, Abraham’s potential was spotted at a young age. Although raised in a family of Arsenal fans, he was snapped up by Chelsea’s academy at under-eight level. Rising through the ranks, the pinnacle of his academy career came when he was part of the squads that won consecutive editions of the UEFA Youth League in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

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In the first of those tournaments, Abraham scored in the semi-final, a 4-0 victory against none other than Roma, for whom Lorenzo Pellegrini was captain. Now, they will be teammates at senior level, with the armband still on Pellegrini’s sleeve.

The following year, Abraham was the joint-second top scorer in the Youth League with eight goals. The other player to reach that tally was a certain Borja Mayoral of Real Madrid, a player with whom he will now be competing for a place at Roma.

But to get to this stage, Abraham had to work hard to make a breakthrough in the adult game. His potential was always clear, but the transition wasn’t easy at first.

He was awarded his senior Chelsea debut in a May 2016 draw against Liverpool, coming on as a second-half substitute. The striker made another substitute appearance a week later – his first outing at Stamford Bridge, against Leicester – as the season concluded.

At the age of 18, it was time for Abraham to build up his gametime elsewhere. Chelsea have frequently favoured a loan policy for their youngsters, so he left on such terms to Championship side Bristol City. Abraham made an instant impact, playing a role in a Robins goal after coming on for his debut and then scoring on his first start. A week later, he was on the scoresheet again with a brace.

The scoring streak continued into his second month in Bristol, where he earned the accolade of the Championship Player of the Month for September, just a few weeks into his time there.

In fact, his form in front of goal at Ashton Gate never really stopped. He finished the season with 26 goals from 48 games, including 23 in the league. It was a record tally for a teenager since the formation of the Championship.

Thus, Chelsea – after awarding him a long-term contract – decided his next move ought to be in the Premier League. He landed relatively close to where he had been playing in the 2016-17 season, moving to Swansea City for the next campaign.

In a difficult year that culminated in relegation for the Welsh outfit, Abraham managed five Premier League goals from 31 games, in addition to three in eight from domestic cup competitions.

His first Premier League goal came in August 2017, against Crystal Palace. But despite a further goal in September and a brace in October, it would take a long time for him to find the net again in the top-flight. Abraham’s fifth and final Premier League goal for Swansea was in an April 2018 draw with West Brom.

In his defence, Abraham only started 15 league games, so scored at a rate of about once every three starts – and did so in a poor team. But it was clear that the then-20-year-old was still taking his time to adapt to the rigours of top-level football.

Even so, his potential had still been acknowledged by his country. Abraham made his England debut in November 2017 against Germany, after previously playing for his country at under-18, under-19 and under-21 level. He had scored two, five and nine goals at each age group respectively, helping the U21s win the 2018 Toulon Tournament, of which he started the final.

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For both club and country, though, Abraham was still waiting for his genuine breakthrough at senior level.

Reflecting on their plans, Chelsea allowed Abraham to drop back into the second tier for his next loan spell – and the rewards were plentiful.

After signing for the season with Aston Villa late in the summer 2018 transfer window, Abraham scored on his home debut – and second appearance – against Yorkshire outfit Rotherham United. It was the spark he needed; from that point on, Abraham scored again and again and again.

One highlight came in a remarkable 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest in November, in which Abraham scored four of Villa’s goals. Once again, he earned the Championship Player of the Month accolade a few days later.

Chelsea even thought about recalling him in January, but Abraham remained at Villa Park for the full year, guiding them to promotion via the play-offs – in which he scored a crucial penalty in the first leg of the semi-final against West Brom.

By the end of the season, he had 26 goals from 40 games to his name in all competitions, including 25 from 37 in the Championship. He was the league’s second-highest scorer and earned his place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.

Abraham was well and truly back on track, and a combination of circumstances led to his opening at Chelsea. The west London club were under a transfer embargo in the summer of 2019, so under the management of Frank Lampard, put their faith in youth for the season ahead.

Abraham was one of those who benefitted most. Awarded the number nine shirt, his Chelsea return didn’t get off to a great start. His first appearance was in the 4-0 season opening loss to Manchester United, before he came on as a substitute in the UEFA Super Cup final against Liverpool, the team he had debuted against a few years previously and who had beaten Roma in controversial circumstances on their journey to winning the Champions League that year.

Unfortunately for Abraham, he missed the decisive penalty in the shootout that decided the game, but he didn’t let that setback affect him.

On his second start of the season, just 10 days after the Super Cup, Abraham was back on the scoresheet, netting against Norwich. A week later, he scored again, this time versus Sheffield United. Finally announcing himself, he was putting the foundations in place for a successful season.

A first Chelsea hat-trick came in a 5-2 win over Wolves in September, in which he also scored an own goal. It was a positive occasion on the whole, though, as he became the club’s youngest treble scorer of the Premier League era.

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Early the next month, Abraham announced himself on the European stage with his first ever Champions League goal, against Lille. He also added to his previous England caps with his first competitive appearances for his country that month, before getting his first international goal in November in a 7-0 triumph over Montenegro.

Chelsea secured Champions League qualification that season, and Abraham was their top scorer with 15 goals from 34 games in the Premier League, and three from 13 in other competitions. He was widely regarded as one of the success stories of the season at Stamford Bridge.

But new challenges awaited Abraham. Transfer ban lifted, Chelsea spent heavily on a new striker that summer, signing Timo Werner. No longer a guaranteed starter, Abraham had to fight for his chances again.

His first goal of the season came in September 2020, during a 6-0 thrashing of Barnsley in the EFL Cup. In the Premier League, Abraham got up and running three days later, in a turbulent 3-3 draw that was the beginning of the end for Lampard.

Abraham scored on six further occasions before the calendar year ended, including once in the Champions League. But Chelsea’s form was slipping, and in late January, Lampard lost his job. In his last game in charge, Abraham had scored a hat-trick in an FA Cup win over Luton. Despite that, Abraham’s chances were about to fade.

Thomas Tuchel replaced the ex-England midfielder, and sometimes preferred to use a false nine system, leaving Abraham out of the picture. He did not score again in the Premier League, but did find the net once more in the FA Cup – against Barnsley again, this time in Yorkshire.

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Overall, though, he was no longer a regular, even though Tuchel admitted he had reason to be frustrated at his lack of opportunities.

Still, the season ended on a high note for Abraham, as Chelsea won the Champions League. However, despite scoring once in the group stage, he did not play in any round of the knockout stage.

Nor did he feature in Chelsea’s next appearance in the Super Cup, which this time they won. By this point, rumours were emerging about his future and Roma were well in the frame to sign him.

The Giallorossi quickly made an acceptable bid to Chelsea after learning of Edin Dzeko’s plans to join Inter. All that remained was to convince Abraham, who had also agreed terms with Arsenal, his family team.

But Chelsea did not want to sell to a direct rival, so Abraham gave more and more thought to the prospect of joining Roma. A move abroad for a young English player can be daunting, but after seeing the success of ex-Blues academy teammate Fikayo Tomori at Milan, for example, it was something for Abraham to consider.

In the end, he became convinced by the Roma project – and how much they were pushing for him. Jose Mourinho wanted him strongly to be their new number nine, and after a face-to-face meeting with Tiago Pinto, Abraham’s mind was made up.

His last appearance in a Chelsea squad was in their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace on August 14th. He sat on the bench the whole game, before waving to the crowd afterwards. It was a goodbye; one day later, he was on the plane to Rome.

Now, a new challenge awaits Abraham, who will have to prove himself in a new league. Given the amount spent on him, expectations will be high, but Roma may have to be patient given his lack of action recently.

Even so, he has shown that when entrusted with regular minutes, he will repay the faith of those selecting him. Now it is up to Abraham to fill some big boots and become the next great striker at Roma.

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