Tammy Abraham, Chris Smalling And The Englishmen Of Serie A

Roma could potentially field three English players in their Europa Conference League final. Here are some of the other English stars to light up Serie A
15:07, 25 May 2022

The inaugural Europa Conference League final takes place on Wednesday night, and there will be plenty of familiar faces on show for followers of the Premier League. Roma manager Jose Mourinho will grab the headlines, but there is a strong contingent of English players in contention. Feyenoord boast on-loan Arsenal winger Reiss Nelson in their ranks. But it is Roma who will feature the majority of the English stars, with Tammy Abraham, Chris Smalling and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all in contention.

Serie A has long been a home away from home for the footballing sons of England. This season even saw a player from this sceptred isle lift the Serie A title. Ex-Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori was a vital part of AC Milan’s return to the top of Italian football. 

To celebrate a super season for Serie A’s English stars, here’s a look back at some Three Lions legends who made Italy their home.

Paul Gascoigne

It is hard to put into context just how popular Paul Gascoigne was when he swapped Tottenham Hotspur for Lazio in 1992. ‘Gazza’ was a phenomenon on the field who had utterly transcended sport in a flood of tears at Italia 90. His return two years later to the country that cemented his legend was huge news.

The move was huge for the popularity of Serie A in England. The iconic ‘Football Italia’ show on Channel 4 initially started largely to follow Gascoigne’s in Rome. As with anything concerning the flawed genius, Gascoigne’s time at Lazio was characterised by highs and lows. 

An 89th minute equaliser at Stadio Olimpico against bitter rivals Roma was the peak, and Lazio’s fans took ‘Gazza’ into his hearts. Conditioning problems, injuries and personal issues meant Serie A never quite saw Gascoigne at his best, but without him an entire generation of English kids would have missed out on their Italian football education.

Paul Ince

Part of the English influx inspired by Gascoigne’s move, Ince swapped Old Trafford for the San Siro in 1995. The combative midfielder suffered a slow start that left him contemplating a November move back to the Premier League, with Arsenal and Newcastle United. But instead of an early exit, ‘The Guvnor’ stuck it out in Serie A and enjoyed two rewarding seasons.

While Inter could only muster a seventh-placed finish in his first season, Ince impressed in the heart of the Nerazzurri midfield. Inter improved in Ince’s second campaign, where he helped them to third in Serie A and played in a UEFA Cup final. He was offered a contract extension, but opted to return to England for family reasons, choosing to join Liverpool.

Ashley Cole

The legendary Chelsea left-back’s union with tonight’s finalists Roma is particularly memorable. Not for anything Cole achieved on the pitch. The ex-Arsenal man’s Italian job never really ignited, as Cole managed just 11 Serie A appearances for the Giallorossi. But Cole did achieve viral ubiquity for a bizarre team photo, in which he stands awkwardly-angled, several feet away from his closely-huddled teammates. The photograph became an endlessly-photoshopped meme sensation lasting far longer than Cole’s Roma contract, which was terminated at the dawn of the following season.

Ashley Young

Tomori is not the only Englishman to go to Milan and lift the Scudetto in recent years. Ashley Young did it in the famous blue and black rather than AC Milan’s red and black. Many felt Young’s best days were behind him when he left Old Trafford in early 2020, but the winger-turned-full back enjoyed a wonderful two-year spell at the San Siro.

Young flourished under Antonio Conte, reaching the Europa League final in his first season at the club. In his second, Inter broke Juventus’ near-decade of Serie A domination to lift the league title. Young returned to the Premier League this season with Aston Villa at the age of 36. An evergreen talent.

David_Beckham1

David Beckham

Perhaps the most famous English player ever, it seems only appropriate that a player as fashion-conscious as David Beckham played football in the city of Milan. Initially joining AC Milan on loan from LA Galaxy in order to maintain fitness for the England squad during the MLS off-season, Beckham was a hit in Italy.

The extension of his loan drew ire from LA Galaxy fans, but he was loved in Milan. So much so that he returned on loan again after the following MLS season. Beckham played 33 games in total for the Rossoneri, proving that even in his mid-30s he could still perform at the sharp end of European football.

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