Tammy Abraham’s move to Roma last year may have looked risky and many felt he was better off staying in the Premier League.
How wrong they were. Not only has he shone on the pitch, won a European trophy and scored 27 goals, he has also seamlessly adapted to the off-pitch lifestyle.
Now he speaks Italian, is adored by the fans and feels at home in the Italian capital. He is a fixture in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad for Qatar. DANNY MURPHY caught up with him after his last call.
MURPHY: Buongiorno, Tam. Your first season at Roma couldn’t have gone better with 27 goals. It has to give you confidence. Given the standards you set, does it also change your attitude?
Abraham: Something inside me says I want to do better. As a character, I thrive that way. I’m looking at Erling Haaland, who is currently the most talked about. I use it as a secret motivation to try to reach that level, to achieve those goals. The success of other players, that drives me.
MURPHY: They’ve evolved from coming in and out at Chelsea to playing weekly, the main man. It’s a status change.
Abraham: If you had told me a few years ago that I would play in Italy, I would not have believed you. Leaving Chelsea was difficult, I grew up there since I was seven.
I didn’t know much about Italian football but it helped me develop as a player and as a man. I left my comfort zone and have no regrets. I love life and it has brought out a different side of my game.
At Chelsea, I was only seen as a goalscorer. Here I learned different aspects of the game. When our opponents have more possession, I know how to position myself defensively. They have more chances of clinical closure because they can be limited.
MURPHY: We glorify the Premier League as the best. How does it compare to Serie A?
Abraham: Both have qualities that the other does not have. Italian football is very tactical. Teams want to stop you from scoring as many goals as possible. I think they mainly focus on stopping goals, which of course makes it more difficult for a striker.
One thing I had to learn quickly was how to take free kicks. Holding the ball up when your team needs a breather, getting those cheap fouls as we would call them in England. I added little things like that.
MURPHY: I met your manager Jose Mourinho a couple of times at events like Soccer Aid. I found him different from his picture, he was quite jovial. You are of course looking at the professional side.
Abraham: He’s one of the best for man management. He knows how to talk to players, how best to deal with everyone. In my case, he never tells me how good I am. I never get a “well done” at half-time, although in the back of my mind I’m like, “You know I’m playing well”. He always wants you to do better.
Before the Europa Conference semifinals against Leicester last season, he dragged me into a room and said, “Tam, I don’t think you were good enough.”
I was surprised because I scored in the previous game! I asked what he meant and he said he doesn’t see the Tammy he saw play against Lazio for example. It was motivating and in the end I scored the winning goal against Leicester.
MURPHY: I’m always amazed at how well Italian players dress. Do you think some of your English friends might struggle with that?
Abraham: The standard is high, I think people get up an hour earlier just to make an effort. For me it means waking up, putting on a tracksuit and going. They’re asking me to dig up some English players! To be fair, they’re fine. Maybe Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are struggling a bit after my time at Chelsea. Your fashion might not be understood that way.
MURPHY: Jack Grealish would be fine with his Gucci gear! You belong to a generation of young English players abroad; Fikayo Tomori and Jude Bellingham are also in this England squad, Jadon Sancho went to Dortmund young, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Harry Winks, Dele Alli are all abroad now.
Abraham: People may have been afraid of change. Everyone likes to be in a comfortable place, but sometimes you can regret not trying. Whatever happens to the rest of my career, I can look back and be proud to play and live in Italy and experience a different life.
Sancho is a great example. When he went to Dortmund I thought: Why? But he did it brilliantly and it gave others the confidence to do it. Jude Bellingham followed him to Dortmund, Tomori and I are in Italy. We’re playing well, knock on the door. I think Sancho has opened the eyes of many people.
MURPHY: And the people of this country have access to the European leagues that you play in. A few years ago it was just Barcelona or Real Madrid apart from maybe one show a week.
Abraham: Before I went on loan to Aston Villa I had a few clubs interested in France but I wasn’t sure at the time, I thought I would be easily forgotten out there even if I play well. Now I would say to English players, think about experiencing it.
MURPHY: England’s last camp in June wasn’t great. Two draws and two defeats against Hungary, most recently 4-0 at home. Gareth Southgate deservedly received a lot of praise for the work he did, this was the first time questions had been asked.