Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have gone from outcasts to heroes in Italy
Roma won their first major European trophy on Wednesday evening after beating Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final in Tirana.
Their victory in Europe’s third division club competition saw Jose Mourinho take his first trophy since Manchester United’s win in the Europa League in 2017.
Chris Smalling was part of the United team that defeated Ajax in Stockholm five years ago and played a defining role in Roma’s success on Wednesday night.
The 32-year-old defender put down a man-of-the-match to help Serie A keep a clean sheet and secure their first title since 2008.
Smalling made some crucial blocks in the early stages of the second half and kept the league’s leading goalscorer – Cyriel Dessers – incredibly quiet.
Roma won their first major European trophy on Wednesday evening after beating Feyenoord
Smalling (L) and Abraham (R) sparkled for Roma in Europa Conference League final
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pitch, Tammy Abraham helped Roma threaten the Feyenoord defence. His most memorable moment of the game came when he was on target before being knocked out by Marcos Senesi.
It’s no surprise that these two players have rediscovered their form in Italy after their disappointing spells in the Premier League.
Serie A has long been a home away from home for English footballers and this season has been no different. Both Smalling and Abraham have thrived on the Italian top this season.
Smalling has turned himself into a defensive fortress, while Abraham has become a goalscoring phenomenon in Rome.
Sportsmail has looked back on their careers in England and analyzed how they have developed since moving to Italy.
Sportsmail looks at Smalling and Abraham’s careers and how they developed in Italy
Chris Smalling joined Roma from Manchester United in an £18million deal in October 2020 after impressing on loan with the Serie A side.
Smalling decided to sign temporarily for Roma after former Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer failed to include him in his first-team plans.
The defender said he knew immediately after his arrival in Serie A that he wanted to move to the club permanently.
Smalling joined Manchester United’s Roma in an £18m deal in October 2020
Smalling rediscovered his form after joining the Italian team and has since cemented his place in the starting lineup under Jose Mourinho.
The former Manchester United defender has made 38 appearances for Roma this season, scoring a total of four goals in all competitions.
The 32-year-old even received the Man of the Match award for his performance in the Europa Conference League final victory against Roma.
Smalling was firmly on the defensive and helped Roma keep a clean sheet on Wednesday night during their 1-0 win over Feyenoord in Tirana.
Fans were quick to take to social media to poke fun at Manchester United and praise Smalling for his performance.
The 32-year-old defender received the Man of the Match award for his performance in Roma’s Europa Conference League final.
One fan tweeted: ‘Chris Smalling left Man United a accomplished player and now he has won the MOTM in a cup final.’ Another added: ‘Moral of the story: leave Man United if you still want to be great.’
While one supporter wrote: ‘Nah Smalling is literally 10 times the player Harry Maguire is’.
Smalling was delighted with the recognition he received. After the game, he told BT Sport: “We knew how much it would mean to everyone in Rome, and you can see how together we are, everyone fought to the end.
“We’ve had to do that a few times this year (fight hard), we dropped a little deeper than we might have wanted, but we knew we had to do everything.
“You saw the attackers running back, everyone defending and we knew we had to win. Even when I first joined the club it had been a long time since they won a trophy, you can hear the fans. We knew how much it was going to mean, you can tell we have some of the best fans.”
Abraham struggled for a place in Chelsea’s starting squad under manager Thomas Tuchel
As a result, he decided to leave the Premier League giants to sign for Roma permanently
Meanwhile, Tammy Abraham became the third Englishman to play for Roma when he switched from Chelsea in August 2021. By moving to the Italian side, he followed in the footsteps of Ashley Cole and Smalling.
Abraham joined Roma on a five-year deal worth £34 million after struggling to secure a regular place in Chelsea’s base.
During his career at Chelsea, Abraham was loaned to Bristol City in England’s second division, where he scored 23 league goals in 41 appearances.
He also played for Swansea City in the Premier League, where he scored his first goal.
Abraham even played for Aston Villa in the Championship – scoring 25 goals in 37 appearances to help them get promoted.
But Abraham struggled to impress Thomas Tuchel and was frozen from the Chelsea squad shortly after the German manager arrived in January 2021.
Tammy Abraham became the third Englishman to play for Roma when he switched from Chelsea
Abraham vowed to help Roma reach a final and claim silverware when he signed with Chelsea
He failed to make the starting line several times and was left out of the squad for Chelsea’s Champions League and FA Cup finals.
Due to his lack of playing time, Abraham made the decision to leave Chelsea for Roma. Abraham also said the option to play under Mourinho drew him to the club – and it’s no surprise given his resurgence under the Portuguese manager.
Abraham excelled since his arrival in Rome. He played 53 for the Italian side this season – scoring 27 goals and providing five assists.
Abraham – who has become Roma’s top goalscorer for the 2021-2022 season – pledged to help the Italian side reach a final and claim silverware when he signed with Chelsea.
He has now delivered on that promise, after helping Roma to victory in the Europa Conference League final in Tirana on Wednesday evening.
About his performance after the game, Abraham told reporters: “One thing I said when I got here was that I would help the team to the finals and one day I want to win a trophy. I achieved that in my first season.
Fans suggested Jose Mourinho taught the striker the ‘dark arts’ in Rome
Abraham went down after a challenge and winked at the couch as he lay on the floor
“Thanks to my teammates, excellent performance. We deserve it. We have worked hard all year. I love them (the fans). From the first day I came here it was the best. We are champions, I’m happy to be part of the team, now it’s time to celebrate and enjoy.
“Even when I first joined the club it’s been a long time since they won a trophy, you hear the fans. We knew how much it was going to mean, you can tell we have some of the best fans.”
Fans have joked via social media that Mourinho taught the 24-year-old ‘dark arts’ a waste of time.
Roma hoped for a 1-0 win against an increasingly adventurous Feyenoord team on Wednesday evening.
As a result, the England striker bought his defenders some much-needed rest with some intelligent forward play when he was knocked down.
With the cameras focused on Roma’s top goalscorer this season, Abraham looked to the bench while holding his shin before winking.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also loaned to Roma by Arsenal but failed to achieve stardom
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also loaned to AS Roma but failed to achieve stardom like Abraham and Smalling. Instead, he was an unused substitute during the Europa Conference League final in Tirana.
The Englishman joined the Italian squad in the January transfer window until the end of the season, but struggled to prove his worth to Mourinho.
As a result, the Portuguese manager decided to play Rick Karsdorp and Nicola Zalewski ahead of him.