"Would you rather stay in rainy England or come to the sun in Rome?" With one José Mourinho question, Tammy Abraham's mind was made up. He has not regretted it.
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Tammy Abraham has enjoyed a memorable first season at Roma, overtaking Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta to equal Rodolfo Volk's 93-year-old club record of 24 goals in a debut campaign. There is still plenty of time to set a new mark, and he could yet end 2021/22 with a UEFA Europa Conference League winners' medal.
Ahead of his return to England to face Leicester in the semi-finals, the 24-year-old tells UEFA.com what first attracted him to Rome, the influence of José Mourinho, the Giallorossi fans and being (whisper it) joint-leading scorer in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Life in Rome
I love it! It's a life experience that you'll never forget and when I had the option to come here, it was a dream come true: I wanted to experience something new. Of course, I grew up in England [and have been there] my whole life, so it's nice to come and try something new, learn about a different culture. I'm enjoying life in Rome, seeing the history of the city and enjoying the food. I'm loving every minute.
I've gone to see the Colosseum – I heard so many stories about it as a kid. Now I'm living here, I've been a couple of times and I drive past it every day. The language is going well, too. When I first came, I didn't understand a word. But I'm settling in well, taking lessons every day and I'm learning. I'm getting there. Hopefully, in a couple of months, I'll be fluent.
The Giallorossi supporters
Before I came, I spoke to [England colleague and AC Milan defender] Fikayo Tomori, and he was telling me how passionate Italian fans are. It's one thing listening to your friend tell you about it; it's another to be here, experiencing it yourself. On the first day I came to the stadium I just said, 'Wow!'. It's an unbelievable feeling to step out onto the pitch with the fans roaring your name and roaring the team. They're amazing supporters.
From the first day I arrived, I fell in love with Roma, with the team, with the fans – I fell in love. They have made me feel like family from the off. Arriving at the airport and seeing fans there to welcome me was the first stepping stone. It's been a wonderful journey. Hopefully, we can lift the Europa Conference League trophy for them, and build the love even more.
How Mourinho convinced him to come
The first words he said to me were: "Would you rather stay in rainy England or come to the sun in Rome?" We both laughed but he then said, "No, seriously." I've always looked at him as a father figure, and he told me that he believes it's the best place for me right now; to come and make a mark on Italian football, get your name around the world – not just in England. For me, that was enough.
He knows when my mind is in the game and when I'm a little bit asleep. He really knows how to drive the team. He knows how to inspire the team to make them hungry, to want more. He's a breath of fresh air around the place. When we need to wake up, he's there to drive us. When we're playing well, he tells us but he still wants more. For a coach, from a player, you can't ask for any more.
Being joint-leading scorer in the Europa Conference League
Joint? I thought I was top! It's a massive competition, a new competition and one a lot of teams will look to be in in the future. For me to be scoring goals and to be joint-top goalscorer is an honour. I should have scored more. It's been a good journey for us, though. We did have that slip-up against Bodø/Glimt, where we lost by a big margin, but we didn't let that distract us. We came back hungrier and won the most important of our four meetings.
Europa Conference League top scorers
8: Cyriel Dessers (Feyenoord)
8: Tammy Abraham (Roma)
6: Yira Sor (Slavia Praha)
6: Ola Solbakken (Bodø/Glimt)
Facing Leicester City
We're going in strong, we're going in with belief and confidence. They play similarly to us in a way. They play counterattacking football. They've got very fast players who like to run. They've got good midfielders who like to find the attackers as well. We have to go into the game full of confidence. On our day, with confidence, we can beat anyone. For us, it's just about believing in ourselves.
I'm going back to England. This is my game to show what I've come away to Italy to learn. I'm excited! I think my whole family will come.