Though stripped of several top assets this summer, Sampdoria have replenished, stabilizing a core capable of making some noise in the chase for Europe.
Over the last few years, Sampdoria have approached the transfer window heavily emphasizing the importance of building a strong foundation combining a blend of veteran leaders and budding youth. Massimo Ferrero, the corky yet passionate President of the Blucerchiati, has vastly reformed his club since 2015, adding players from all corners of the world without the use of a large operating budget.
Largely due to sporting director Carlo Osti’s keen eye for young domestic and foreign talent, the Genoese outfit is regularly importing quality by the handful each summer, and winning on the books. Sampdoria has thrived off a scout-buy-flip-reinvest system in modern football’s inflated market, and though cornerstone-type players like Patrik Schick, Milan Skriniar and Luis Muriel had been sold for big sums this summer by that formula, Sampdoria have restocked once again for a run at Europe this year.
This past summer, Sampdoria were a supermarket of sorts, selling four of their key men from last season for a net total of €56,5 million – which will rise to nearly €85 million once Schick’s 28 million euro obligation is activated over the life of his incentive-laden contract. Specifically, it was Schick and Skriniar – both purchased nearly 10 months ago for a combined 5 million euros – who brought them the biggest ROI. While the duo – and Muriel – garnered the most attention, the sale of Bruno Fernandes mustn’t be overlooked out of respect for his abilities.
The talented 22 year old attacking midfielder, with several years of Serie A experience under his belt, typically, would command more than the 8,5 million euros Sporting CP spent. Perhaps Sampdoria could have taken a firmer stance in negotiations for the Portuguese international. Nevertheless, although Sporting CP managed to pull off one of Europe’s most financial-friendly heists, like every other major deal this summer, Sampdoria walked away with a favorable return.
Shrewd business dealings such as these allow the Ferraris tenant can continue to replenish their squad with players who fit the bill mentioned in the opening of this article, and without breaking the bank.
Between selling prime talent, Ferrero and Osti reinvested immediately and gave Italian boss Marco Giampaolo a formidable side to work with, while also keeping in mind the the long-term vision for the club. The additions of Gianluca Caprari (23, from Inter for €12m), promising Poland U-21 star Dawid Kownacki (20, €4m from Lech Poznan) and Deadline Day coup Duvan Zapata (26, €3M season-long loan with €17M obligation to buy) round out a deep attacking force that, sneakily, can inflict damage – especially with veteran hitman Fabio Quagliarella posing as the elder statesman showing them all the ropes.
Transitioning into the midfield, Gaston Ramirez, after several years with Bologna, brings back to Italy years of top flight experience in the Premier League after arriving from Middlesbrough FC. Creative on the ball, the well-capped Uruguayan international can be tried in several roles across the attack, though it’s likely he slots in as the link between midfield and the strikers that Fernandes controlled so well.
When it comes to the centrocampo, Sampdoria are stacked to the brim with talented midfielders who can impact a game at any moment. Ramirez will thrive off the freedom given due to plenty of coverage by the likes of Karol Linetty, Dennis Praet, a revitalized Ricky Alvarez and the most talented one of them all, controlling defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira.
At the base of Giampaolo’s balanced 4-3-1-2, the diminutive 21-year old hovers around the park disrupting play before fearlessly charging forward, but is known for his range and string pulling nature armouring the defence. Torreira’s the name Italy’s top clubs sought to add this summer, but Ferrero was wise to deny all advances as he has yet to sniff the surface of his true potential and can go for major money one year from now.
Defensively, Skriniar leaves behind a void that will be difficult to plug. Sampdoria tried on Deadline Day to snap up Napoli’s Lorenzo Tonelli which would’ve been a top piece of business, but fell short in their efforts. Gianmarco Ferrari comes into the mix on loan from Sassuolo with hopes of breaking into the starting XI by convincing Giampaolo he’s ready to take on a bigger role. Nicola Murru sits as the undisputed first-choice left-back after moving from Cagliari under the radar, while Ivan Strinic (formerly of Napoli) poses as a steady rotation option who can do the job for Giampaolo when called upon.
There is the possibility that Sampdoria concede a fair amount as it’s unclear whether 36-year old Christian Puggioni can keep goals to a minimum. A younger Andrea Tozzo sits as the backup, leading us to believe that Giampaolo’s leash in net could be short should things go south. It’s likely they’ll be figuring out who can form the best partnership with veteran Matias Silvestre that can limit the damage in the back. Still, there is enough talent up and down this roster to cause trouble for the top contenders standing in their way for a Europa League birth, including Fiorentina who were bested 2-1 at the Franchi two weeks ago.
Overlooked by the majority of calcio fans with the dominance of six-time Scudetto winners Juventus, Roma and Napoli’s hunt to dethrone ‘the Old Lady’ and the Milanese clubs’ constant headline grabbing, Sampdoria have laid the groundwork to finally emerge as contenders for Europe in 2017-18.