Conference League final: Abraham, Dessers Stand off, Nigerian Connection and the Quest for Legitimacy

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The final of the Europa Conference League will be monumental for AS Roma and Feyenoord owing to their respective histories and more importantly as it’ll culminate in the head to head battle between their respective top strikers, Tammy Abraham and Cyriel Dessers, both leading the top scorers’ race in the competition.

The duo – both of Nigerian descent – have made their mark in this debut season of the Conference League, setting a bar quite high enough for those to come, but also poised to finally bring an end to the debate of who’s better when the stand off on May 25 comes around.
For Tammy Abraham, a former Chelsea pointman, this is familiar territory, although it’s also his best campaign in Europe yet.
His previous adventures in the Champions League and Europa League at senior level saw a meagre goal returns of 4 in 13 appearances over two seasons.
This is the Englishman’s debut campaign at AS Roma with former Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho, and though the Portuguese cried after the final whistle against Leicester City in Rome for what collectively they achieved, Abraham would have more introspection to do for how he’s been transformed into a reliable goal machine.
Since his move from Stamford Bridge and the London outfit where he cut his teeth, the 24 year-old has netted 15goals and notched four assists in 34 league games, matching his most productive season in the PL for Chelsea, but short one assist.
The demands as Roma’s number 9 are just as significant as they were at Chelsea and if nothing else, the Forward has justified his hefty price tag already.
But what is the challenge that lies ahead? What’s Mourinho asking if the kid he probably saw many times at Chelsea’s academy while he served instructions to the now Legendary Didier Drogba, Diego Costa and co?
There’s a big question of the reputation of a Mastermind tactician who’s allegedly washed and a traditional Italian club with next to nothing to show for its rich history.
Abraham will be the heart and soul of the Giallorossi in Tirana when they battle a team that’s had more impact in Europe in terms of trophies won and Feyenoord under Manager Arne Slot seem to have found that identity again.
Prior the first leg victory against Olympique Marseille at De Kuip, Feyenoord were on a roll of wins and one more than one occasion they’ve had to stick to the brilliance of the manager while also riding on the back of a certain Cyriel Dessers.
Dessers was a misfit when he signed with Feyenoord on loan from KRC Genk.
In 2019 after he left the Eredivisie following a stellar season where he scored 15 goals in 26 appearances, everything was supposed to be on an upward trajectory, but it didn’t.
He switched in a surprise transfer to his boyhood club and small market Jupiler League, but he wasn’t the same kid who left Netherlands as top two best scorer the previous season.
That struggle prompted his loan move a season later, for more game time and perhaps to once again prove he had the quality to be an Elite forward.
So far, the 27 year-old has stayed consistent despite playing the least number of games and minutes at Feyenoord, among the team’s top three goal contributors his numbers have been most impressive.
Little wonder he has become the subject of interest for Feyenoord, who are exploring all means to secure his services on a permanent basis.
And if there’s one competition where he’s proven he is worth all the fuss, it’s the Conference League where he’s currently the top scorer and the team through some tricky, murky waters.
He has played a game less, but has more goals and assist than Tammy Abraham in the competition.
The two are also of Nigerian descent; one opted to represent England, his birth country, while the other has only managed one Cap for Nigeria after switching allegiance from Belgium.
All these factors will come to the fore on May 25 at the over 22,000 capacity Arena Kombëtare.

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