Roma’s English emperor: Ex-Chelsea star Abraham deserves another shot at lighting up the Premier League

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Tammy Abraham, Roma 2021-22Getty

Not for the first time this season, Tammy Abraham admitted that he was struggling to find the right words.

This was even worse than usual, though. This time it was even more difficult to convey what he was feeling. This was the Rome derby, and he had just scored twice in a 3-0 win.

He considered doing his post-match interview in his improving Italian but decided upon English because "I wanted to describe how wonderful a moment this is."

When he saw a video of the fans chanting his name afterwards, the newly christened 'King of the Derby' only needed one word, though: "Unbelievable!"

And it was. It still is, in fact, because just over a month on, Roma fans are even more enamoured with Abraham, and that is truly difficult to believe.

Nobody could have predicted just how well this unlikely love affair would work out; how quickly they would take him to their hearts.

Other than Jose Mourinho perhaps.

Remember, Abraham was struggling badly this time last year. Despite still being Chelsea's top scorer in all competitions, he was barely playing under new manager Thomas Tuchel.

So, even before the Blues made a move for Romelu Lukaku last August, Abraham knew that he would have to leave the club that raised him if he were to play regular first-team football.

Newly appointed Roma boss Mourinho was desperate to bring him to the Stadio Olimpico, but Abraham was unsure.

The striker had never been afraid to leave his native London on loan, but a permanent move abroad did not appeal. He was far more interested in joining Arsenal, the club he had supported as a boy.

However, when he confided in his former Blues team-mate and childhood friend Fikayo Tomori that Roma were in for him, the AC Milan defender told Abraham, "Bro, this is a good league!".

"I felt like it would develop his game a lot," Tomori revealed in an interview with The Guardian.

"I gave him rave reviews about Serie A because I enjoyed myself so much the first six months, and it's definitely helped him a lot."

There can be no arguments there. Of all of the players to have moved clubs last summer, few have benefited more from a change of scenery than Abraham.

He has settled superbly in Italy.

On the field, left-back Rick Karsdorp says the pair are "perfectly in sync", as underlined by the four goals he has created for "a special striker", while Abraham feels just as comfortable with his new team-mates off the field, becoming particularly good friends with fellow forward Nicolo Zaniolo.

His professionalism has also impressed the playing staff, particularly his willingness to do personalised training before or after team sessions in order to reduce the risk of injury.

Abraham has, unsurprisingly, developed a real fondness for Italian cuisine (pasta pesto is reportedly his favourite dish) and culture, loving nothing more than going for long walks around the city centre or near his home in Laghetto dell'Eur.

The net result is a player in the form of his life.

Ahead of Thursday's Europa Conference League semi-final first leg against Leicester City, the forward has scored 24 goals in 46 games in all competitions this season.

Not even Vincenzo Montella or Gabriel Batistuta struck more times in their debut seasons at Roma (21 apiece).

Abraham rather humbly credits the club for helping him through what he freely admits was a "low time" towards the tail end of his Stamford Bridge stay.

“I give credit to my team-mates, the fans, the manager, the staff – everybody made me feel like family," he told DAZN after the derby. "When everyone believes in you, it gives you that confidence.

“They spent so much to bring me here and I have to repay them.”

There is no denying that eyebrows were raised when Roma made Abraham the most expensive Serie A signing of the summer of 2021.

However, Mourinho had never been in any doubt that the Englishman would justify his €40 million (£34m/$47m) price tag.

Tomori's rave reviews may have helped, but it was the Portuguese coach who played the pivotal role in persuading Abraham to join the Giallorossi.

Mourinho saw a huge amount of untapped potential in Abraham and he invested a lot of time and effort in convincing the forward that he would develop both as a player and a person by testing himself in a new league in a different country.

However, he was never going to treat his expensive signing with kid gloves. This is Mourinho, after all, one of the great exponents of tough love.

Even after some of Abraham's most impressive performances of the season, his coach has been critical.

"I know he has potential to do even more," Mourinho told DAZN after Abraham's derby double.

"It wasn’t just the goals, but the way he pressed, fought, tracked back, defended the ball, which he did not do even once against Vitesse [in the Conference League last 16].

"I demand a lot from Tammy because I know what he can give. It's not just about goals; Tammy has to play every game with this attitude."

Abraham also credits Mourinho, the managerial master of the dark arts, with adding an extra edge to his game.

"It’s not always about being nice on the pitch," he told The Telegraph. "You need that character; you need that presence to frighten defenders and I think that’s something I’m learning and getting better at."

Abraham is certainly proving himself adept at terrorising backlines and, unsurprisingly, his newfound mix of hard running and lethal finishing has endeared him to the Roma fans.

Indeed, he only found out that he was closing in on Batistuta and Montella's record because excited supporters kept bringing it up on his Instagram feed.

Now, they are hoping he can fire them to a first trophy since the 2007-08 Coppa Italia, and their first continental silverware since winning the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1972.

Thursday's first leg at the King Power Stadium means a return to England, and it is hardly surprising that there is mounting speculation that a Premier League club might try to bring him back this summer.

Chelsea rather shrewdly inserted a £68m ($90m) buy-back clause in his contract for 2023, but Arsenal have reportedly been told that it would require an offer of at least £80m ($100m) to sign Abraham this summer.

The player himself, though, seems in no rush to leave Roma, recently describing Stadio Olimpico as his "home".

"I enjoy it every time I step on this pitch, you can hear the fans from minute one and I’d do anything for this club," he told DAZN last month.

"The fans love me and I love them. I love them."

Indeed, he has already been crowned the 'King of the Derby'. If he helps them conquer Europe too, they may end up making him the new Emperor of Rome!