Led by Serie A’s most colourful owner, Sampdoria will hope to overcome Sinisa Mihajlovic’s exit and let the talking happen on the pitch. Edoardo Dalmonte takes a closer look.
It is categorically impossible to write about Sampdoria without talking about Massimo Ferrero, Italian football’s answer to Mad Max. A Twitter cult figure for his numerous outbursts and inventive scarf-wearing, Samp’s President ensured that fans were never bored, even when his players were kicking back on the coast.
Regrettably, what seemed like the promising retooling of one of last season’s surprise packages has degenerated into a circus, with a humiliating 4-0 defeat in a Europa League qualifier to lowly Vojvodina bringing new manager Walter Zenga to the brink.
Though the former Catania and Palermo gaffer made a series of horrific tactical blunders in the home leg, he was returning from a six-year leave of absence from Italian football, and had to deal with the departure of key elements like Stefano Okaka, Alessio Romagnoli and Pedro Obiang.
Instead of providing his new manager with the out-and-out striker he needed, Ferrero began a summer-long flirtation with Antonio Cassano, prompting Zenga to threaten to resign if Fantantonio was brought back into the fold. He also expressed reservations at signing Balotelli, another Ferrero initiative.
Though Sampdoria’s 2-0 win in the return leg in Serbia likely saved Walterone, Ferrero immediately went and signed Cassano, capping off his arrival by tweeting photos of the two of them... next to one of Mario Balotelli.
Zenga may have further reason to worry about his job, after news emerged that Ferrero’s contribution to buying the club was close to zero (all the money coming from Edoardo Garrone, who paid at least €60m to shore up Sampdoria’s debts and sell), prompting many to wonder where the club is obtaining financing from, and who is behind it all.
Despite the avalanche of (completely justified) bad press, Sampdoria had done a lot right before last week with their new additions: Niklas Moisander and Fernando are skilful players, and could well be in the running for steals of the season.
Cassano will add some verve, Cassani is an experienced right-back and Ervin Zukanovic is a good left-footed full-back who could play in the middle, too. Trouble is, there is still no goalscorer, and until Moisander returns the centre of the defence looks very weak. As of now, Sampdoria fans have no idea what to expect.
“Spiderman” had a full month to prepare for the home leg against Vojvodina, a game in which his team looked tired, out of shape, demotivated and very much confused. The good news is that Zenga has done well overseas, and even established a then-record points total in his only full season at Catania.
For a player who many doubted (for good reason) could ever have a meaningful Serie A impact, last year had the feeling of an apotheosis for the Brazilian-born player, who also got himself into Azzurri contention. Not bad for one of the season’s Fantacalcio steals, who fit into Mihajlovic’s system like a glove.
Fernando gets the nod over Moisander based purely on his age (23 to the Finn’s 29). They both have huge breakout potential, with the Brazilian providing the midfield mastery needed after Obiang’s departure, Krstitic’s poor start and Palombo’s likely decline. With budgets tight in Serie A, low-cost, high value acquisitions like these are game-changers.
With Italy always in search of young talent, Sampdoria has been a good port of call for Prandelli of late, and that shouldn’t change this term. In particular Roberto Soriano is a talented midfielder with four Italian caps under his belt, and should hold a key role for his club side, while continuing his development with the Azzurri.
Viviani; CASSANI, MOISANDER, Silvestre, ZUKANOVIC; E. BARRETO, FERNANDO, Soriano; CASSANO; Eder, Muriel
Whilst the Doria are a high variance side, Genoa have more continuity. Torino, Udinese and Palermo all look promising, whilst Inter and AC Milan will likely overtake them even with average seasons. Last season was a historically bad one for the Milanese sides, a year in which Sampdoria stretched their potential to the max. Zenga’s tenure is a worry, too, and it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that Samp will end the season on a mediocre note having brought in someone like Gigi del Neri to avoid a collapse. Many bookmakers have them here at 8th, and that’s good enough for me.
Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.