It’s taken days of meetings and plenty of convincing, but Tammy Abraham has finally agreed to join AS Roma.
The 23-year-old has clearly never been completely sold on leaving Chelsea for the Italian giants, even if coach Jose Mourinho expressed his desire for the forward to become his main man in the Giallorossi’s forward line.
And Abraham’s reluctance is understandable. He grew up dreaming of playing for Chelsea’s first team as he progressed through their academy, hoping to one day step out onto the Stamford Bridge turf.
He did the hard yards in the Championship, tearing it up for Bristol City and Aston Villa, even helping the Villans gain promotion back to the Premier League. His chance at Chelsea finally came when a transfer ban meant he was Frank Lampard’s go-to guy, and he broke the number nine curse in blue.
Abraham scored 15 Premier League goals in the 2019/20 campaign, and all signs were pointing towards this fairytale having a ‘happily ever after ending’. Then, his story took a turn. A sudden injection of cash from Roman Abramovich saw the arrival of a bundle of superstars, pushing the local hero down the pecking order.
He still managed six goals in the first half of the 2020/21 season, as Lampard struggled to strike a balance in his team and ultimately lost control of the ship. That spiral saw the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, and although Chelsea’s fortunes improved exponentially, Abraham was not a part of his success.
The final nail in the coffin arrived in early August, when it became apparent that Chelsea were looking to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the Bridge. Leaving as a boy and returning as a man, that was the fairytale.
While Abraham will understandably be disheartened and feel hurt by his treatment over the past 12 months, Lukaku’s narrative arc does offer crumbs of encouragement, and proof that, as the saying goes: once a blue, always a blue.
Lukaku’s arrival has come at the direct expense of Abraham, and he’ll know all too well how the under-appreciated forward is feeling. The Belgian suffered the same fate during his first spell in West London, spending two seasons out on loan before eventually deciding he would never usurp the newly-signed Diego Costa, and he left to join Everton on a permanent deal.
Was it a dream move for the forward? Absolutely not. But he was willing to bide his time, prove himself elsewhere and seize the moment when his day arrived. Unbelievably, there were – and still are – doubters who didn’t quite believe Lukaku could cut it at the top.
That’s what happens when a player is forced out of a top club, and it’ll almost certainly happen to Abraham, too. But Lukaku has worked tirelessly to build a reputation as one of the elite forwards in the game, scoring goals at Everton, Manchester United and Inter, before finally adding the silverware his goals merited with I Nerazzurri.
The Belgian’s years away from Stamford Bridge have shaped him into one of Europe’s top marksmen, and as he told Inter supporters in an emotional goodbye letter, “without you I wouldn’t be the player or man I am today.”
So, while it wasn’t his preferred destination, it was all part of his story which has completed its full circle this summer. That is the redemption Abraham should be striving towards. Roma may not be his final destination, but it doesn’t have to be an arduous, loveless experience, either.
Abraham has been hand-picked by Mourinho, and the Portuguese star will recount stories of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, who became an icon of the Special One’s title-winning team. When Mourinho picks you as his man, history suggests you are a bit special.
Perhaps the Roma coach sees a bit of Drogba in Abraham, who would have undoubtedly grown up admiring the Ivorian during his time at the Bridge. The incoming Roma star has the backing of a top coach, he’s playing for a European giant with supporters whose passion is hard to rival, and he’ll be given the game time he craves to prove himself on the European stage.
He won’t lack the service to do so, either. Roma boast some incredibly talented attacking stars, with the likes of Nicolo Zaniolo, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Eldor Shomurodov waiting to supply the new arrival. There is goals in this team, even with the defensive-minded Mourinho in charge.
Should it really click, and Roma do the unthinkable and win only their fourth ever Serie A title, then he would have achieved something greater than even Lukaku managed when firing Inter to their first scudetto in 11 years.
It’s not as bad a proposition as Abraham may have first feared. There’s one more golden nugget of hope, too. The England international has been handed a much easier path back to Chelsea than Lukaku could have ever dreamed of – a buyback clause.
The Blues are painfully aware of how well players tend to develop after leaving West London, and they’ve decided not to risk completely losing Abraham (as they did Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah, to name but a few) by adding the option to retain his services in the future.
Chelsea have inserted a buyback clause in the £34m deal, allowing them to re-sign Abraham for a fee of around £68m. That clause will only become active from the summer of 2023, meaning the forward has got at least two seasons to make Serie A rain goals while he’s leading the Roma line.
And then, who knows? Abraham’s departure from Chelsea may feel like a ‘goodbye’, but Lukaku is living proof that in the world of football, it’s much more likely to be an ‘until next time’.