‘It was Arsenal’: Tammy Abraham had his heart set on a move to his dad’s boyhood club in 2021, then Jose Mourinho called

Tammy Abraham Jose Mourinho Roma
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When Tammy Abraham was preparing to leave Chelsea in the summer of 2021, eager for regular first-team minutes after falling out of favour under Thomas Tuchel, Arsenal were in pole position to sign the striker. 

Then, an unexpected phone call came through, causing Abraham to re-evaluate his decision entirely. On the other end of the phone was Jose Mourinho, and the Roma manager wanted Abraham with him in Italy as a matter of urgency. 

“It was time to move on from Chelsea, and I was talking to various clubs in England and Europe,” Abraham tells FourFourTwo. “My focus was on a certain London club. I didn’t have to move anywhere, I was familiar with the area… it was Arsenal. My dad is a massive Arsenal fan, so he was very keen on it, and everything was going well. 

"Then Jose called. I never usually answer numbers I don’t have saved in my contacts. But he said, ‘Hi Tammy, it’s Jose’. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a surprise!’ He asked how the family was. 

"I was familiar with him because he knew me as a kid at Chelsea. He asked me, ‘Are you ready to leave the bad weather behind and come to sunny Rome?’ I laughed, we spoke a bit more, he told me about the project, his ambitions for the team. He’d only been at the club a short time, but explained what he’d seen and what it was like," Abraham explains. 

"I spoke to my agents and they said it was a no-brainer, the perfect time to start a new life, to go abroad and learn about a different culture. I was so ready for it, and I haven’t looked back since."

Indeed he hasn't. During his first season at the club, Abraham plundered 17 Serie A goals and nine on the way to Roma's Europa Conference League triumph. While he has struggled for form somewhat this season, Mourinho has maintained faith in the England international. 

Choosing not to move to Arsenal was certainly a tough decision Abraham had to make, though, especially when considering his idol growing up was Thierry Henry. 

Abraham still copies some of the Frenchman's idiosyncratic behaviour to this day. The 25-year-old finally got to meet Henry on the side of the pitch before a game once, purposely kicking the ball in his direction during a warm-up just so he could interact with him. 

"“My family were massive Arsenal fans, so I grew up watching them – I’d be lying to say Thierry Henry wasn’t my biggest idol,” Abraham reveals. 

“I loved Thierry, and I wanted to be a footballer because of him. Even the way he wore his socks, today I still wear them the same. The way he used to wear his wrist tape – if you notice, I wear wrist tape as well! He’s a player I looked up to and loved. 

“He was doing some TV work before a game and I was warming up,” Abraham remembers. “I kicked the ball near him on purpose and went over – he gave me a hug. I don’t think I’ve washed that top since, I’ve kept it. It was a dream!”

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.