Its rarely dull at Sampdoria. With President Massimo Ferrero living up to his reputation as an outlandish movie mogul and Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic an equally colourful character, the two key decision-makers at the club are undeniably unique.
While the duo could quite easily clash, they have struck up a strong bond. Ferrero staunchly backs Mihajlovic, with the tactician winning him over with results on the pitch.
Sampdoria spent frugally in the summer, yet started the campaign impressively. With a reliance on a hard-working 4-3-3, an Italian born spine, discipline and a strong work ethic, La Doria lost just one of their first 16 matches. In that run, they beat city rivals Genoa and Fiorentina, and held Roma, Milan, Napoli and Juventus.
Going into January, they were well positioned in the top five melee and could conceivably remain so with some well-directed strengthening of the squad.
The loss of Manolo Gabbiadini to Napoli immediately however, left a void - he'd contributed seven goals - while defensive leader Daniele Gastaldello surprisingly switched to Bologna.
Ferrero said recently that “Mihajlovic threatened to leave if I didn’t buy his players, so I bought them.”
That notion played out quite forcefully, with an influx of additions. Ferrero admits he doesn't know “much about football” and perhaps that has been apparent.
The standout arrivals, Samuel Eto’o and Luis Muriel, will grab headlines, but may contradict Mihajlovic’s approach.
While the Serb insists “the important thing is to know you’ve done all you can,” Muriel suggests that things at Udinese it turned sour when “they started asking things that they didn't require of me before, like running after everyone", not exactly fitting with the Coach's hard-running approach.
Eto’o, meanwhile, walked out of training almost as soon as he arrived. A disagreement with Mihajlovic led to him showing “a grave lack of respect towards me [Mihajlovic] and the entire team.” He’s since patched up the issue and is now allegedly “loved by everyone in the locker room.”
While the talent and potential for brilliance Eto’o and Muriel offer is undeniable, can they buy into the philosophy?
Former Samp defender Michele Serena states “I see in Sampdoria’s players the human values of Sinisa. He is a person who carries out his beliefs.”
Has that now been compromised?
Mihajlovic had already been involved in a training ground bust-up with Stefano Okaka before the Eto’o incident, and perhaps would have benefited from a more mouldable and hungry replacement for Gabbiadini.
The choice of Ezequiel Munoz as Gastaldello’s heir is also questionable. Young Simone Romagnoli was developing nicely alongside the veteran, but will now be paired with a less commanding, if capable, alternative, who may just be buying time before moving on to Milan. Matias Silvestre, another option, can be temperamental.
Despite these concerns, there is also cause for optimism. A focused Eto’o and Muriel should be feared, while Joaquin Correa and Federico Bonazzoli offer intrigue for the future and the likes of Afriyie Acquah and Andrea Coda are proven Serie A performers.
That said, Sampdoria have failed to win any of their last four matches, and though Mihajlovic is confident “everything will return to the way it was,” there are no guarantees.
Samp go into Saturday’s Derby della Lanterna level with Genoa. Whether they can emerge victorious against their local rivals will go some way to indicating where they stand.