How Rafa Benitez predicted Tammy Abraham’s rise to England forward at Chelsea
When Newcastle United line up against Chelsea on Monday evening, they could well be set to face England international forward Tammy Abraham.
The 23-year-old bagged the winner for the Blues on Thursday evening as they beat Barnsley 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round, and although he is in a battle with Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud to start up front, he is Chelsea’s top scorer this season with 12 goals in all competitions – including a goal at St James’ Park in a 2-0 win earlier this season.
It is a far cry from the summer of 2017 when Newcastle United were desperate to sign Abraham on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea.
At the time, Abraham was just 19 and was nowhere near the Chelsea first team. However, he had just torn up the Championship with Bristol City, scoring 26 goals in a season-long loan deal with the Robins during the 2016/17 campaign.
Newcastle, of course, won the Championship title that season and despite Dwight Gayle scoring 23 goals himself during that campaign, Rafa Benitez had identified Abraham as a forward he was keen to sign as the Magpies prepared for their return to the Premier League.
In fact, the Spaniard was so keen to sign Abraham that he even paid a visit to St George’s Park on his wedding anniversary to try and convince him to make the move to the North East that summer.
Abraham was at England’s training base preparing for the European under-21 Championships that summer and after scoring once in four appearance for his country before they were knocked out at the semi-finals stage, he opted to join Swansea on a season-long loan deal instead of the Magpies.
All kinds of reports speculated over the reasons behind Abraham’s decision. Some suggested Chelsea had advised him not to join Newcastle because of it’s famous nightlife scene.
Meanwhile, others suggested key figures in the club urged Abraham to move to St James’ Park as if he could handle the pressure of playing in front of 52,000 Newcastle fans every week, it would bode well for his future at Stamford Bridge.
Premier League legends like Ian Wright questioned why he would choose Swansea over Newcastle and it turned out to be the first setback in Abraham’s young career.
He managed just five goals in 31 Premier League appearances and found himself in and out of the Swans’ starting XI. Paul Clement, whose Chelsea links played a motivating factor in his decision to move to South Wales, was sacked, and Abraham ended up working under both Bob Bradley and Carlos Carvalhal before Swansea were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season.
However, despite an indifferent campaign, Benitez remained bullish in his belief in Abraham and predicted he would go on to play for England way back in November 2017, as he confirmed Newcastle did try and sign him on loan.
Within a couple of weeks, Abraham made his debut for his country in a 0-0 friendly draw with Germany and although his career took a step back, he is now an established member of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions group.
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