Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori graduate with honours after Italian education

Tammy Abraham of AS Roma celebrates with the UEFA Europa Conference League Trophy

Tammy Abraham winked towards the Roma bench while rolling around on the Air Albania Stadium turf. In that moment, the English forward showed his growth as a player and a blossoming personality on the pitch to lead Jose Mourinho’s side.

A graduation, on the big stage, gladly doing the dirty work to help carve out a piece of history for one of Italy’s most prestigious clubs: a first European trophy for the Giallorossi and legendary status secured at 24 years of age. He is now part of football heritage, as his boss once famously said.

The same can be said of Fikayo Tomori, who enjoyed his own graduation three days earlier, becoming a Serie A champion and following the Milan lineage at centre-back.

The former Chelsea players have shone a light on a priceless journey for players that far exceeds the extra riches some players previously accepted when moved on from the Premier League’s elite clubs.

There was immediate dread from Chelsea following his first run of games for the Rossoneri on loan, regret at the modest £25million option secured as part of the initial agreement. Tomori has fully embraced his new football culture, diving into a new language and adding layers to his game. It is barely 16 months since he touched down on the peninsula and he is already England’s best centre-back based on current form. Gareth Southgate’s loyalty towards Harry Maguire and John Stones and the close proximity to Qatar 2022 may delay Tomori’s path to a starting role for his country. But it will not be long before he translates his quality from club to country.


AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori celebrates after winning Serie A

Abraham, too, has matured as a player and is in a prime position to snatch a role backing up Harry Kane, or even step in should the Tottenham striker further evolve into a deep-lying forward as we have seen at times.

Abraham has always had the raw tools to be one of Europe’s top forwards, shining in the Uefa Youth League seven years ago, firing eight goals in nine games. But upon touching down in the Eternal City, one of Mourinho’s first jobs was to identify a complete No 9: One of the requisites to his great sides over the years, from Benni McCarthy and Didier Drogba to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Karim Benzema.

Abraham has 27 goals in all competitions this season, the most goals in a debut season for a Roma player, while also setting the record for the most Serie A goals in a season for an Englishman (17). But Wednesday night was not about flashy stats or an individual moment of brilliance. Instead, Abraham toiled in the unenviable role of leading the line for a Mourinho side, occupying Feyenoord defenders and relieving pressure after buying fouls. Feyenoord’s Marcos Senesi fell into the trap, grappling with his opponent, who gleefully absorbed the contact to secure a precious foul, matching the script Mourinho undoubtedly drafted days earlier.

And if Abraham has come of age, then so too has Tomori, as a cornerstone to both a modern Milan side with fundamentals from the past under Stefano Pioli. Tomori allows for a versatile set-up, using the ball in possession, recovering from high lines and now reading the game exceptionally. Nine clean sheets in their final 11 games with Tomori at the heart of a 29-point return from 33 available has provided an incredible foundation.

And if Abraham has been added to a decorated group of Mourinho centre-forwards, Tomori has been added to the lineage of defenders to wear the red and black stripes: Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini, to name just a few over the last 20 years.

“A year and a half ago, I was at Chelsea, not playing a lot… well, not at all,” Tomori said in an interview with The Athletic after clinching the scudetto, a first title for Milan in 11 years. “It’s difficult to stay motivated at that time, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. If someone would have told me, ‘In a year and a half, you’ll win the Scudetto with Milan’, I would have thought they were crazy.”


Tomori illustrates how quickly things can change; both his and Abraham’s bravery to venture afar to realise their dreams will provide inspiration for others.

The Premier League’s quality is arguably higher than ever before, but a negative consequence may be the immediacy in which young English players must demonstrate an ability to thrive in an elite team. Instead, thanks to both players, others may seize the opportunity to tread an alternative path to the top of European football. Abraham and Tomori created unforgettable memories with Serie A title and Europa Conference League glory, but their legacies are only just beginning.

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