Thursday , October 31 2019

Are Sampdoria Europe’s biggest crisis club this season?

There are plenty of teams across Europe where it appears all four wheels are close to breaking away and leaving nothing but a rudderless chassis – many of those in the Premier League.

Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are at best struggling for form as they continue to slump down the league table.

But at least they are not Sampdoria, who have had a catastrophic first seven games at the start of the Serie A season.

Sampdoria are struggling at the start of the Serie A season losing six of their first seven games

Their latest defeat saw them fall to a 2-0 defeat at Hellas Verona before the international break

Their latest defeat saw them fall to a 2-0 defeat at Hellas Verona before the international break

Traditionally you would expect a club of their magnitude to be targeting qualification for a European spot. Perhaps the Champions League is out of reach but they are the sort of team you would rather avoid if you are competing in the Europa League.

They have a proud history too. Winning the Italian top flight 29 years ago during their golden age of the late 1980s and early 1990s when they featured talent including Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Pagliuca, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Attilio Lombardo, Graeme Souness and England internationals David Platt and Des Walker.

In ten seasons up until 1994 they won the Italian Cup four times as well as the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. 

Roberto Mancini (left) and Gianluca Vialli are among notable stars who have played for Samp

Roberto Mancini (left) and Gianluca Vialli are among notable stars who have played for Samp

They enjoyed a period of success from the late 1980s until the early 1990s but their last trophy was the 1994 Coppa Italia with a side featuring David Platt (front, fourth from right)

They enjoyed a period of success from the late 1980s until the early 1990s but their last trophy was the 1994 Coppa Italia with a side featuring David Platt (front, fourth from right)

In short they are one of those sides you would categorise in the trope ‘too good to go down’. So where are they in the league table?

Bottom. Plum last. Having only won one game and lost the rest. Sampdoria are right now the crisis club of Europe. 

Already they have dismissed a manager, with Eusebio di Francesco having been sacked at the start of the international break having only been appointed in the summer.

It is a far cry from the pre-season hopes of pushing for a Europa League place for the first time in four years off the back of a ninth place finish.

Sampdoria have endured a horrific start to the season, sitting bottom with just one victory

Sampdoria have endured a horrific start to the season, sitting bottom with just one victory

Eusebio di Francesco has already paid the price for the poor start after being axed as manager

Eusebio di Francesco has already paid the price for the poor start after being axed as manager

Yet even before the season started there were clues that all was not well at the Blucerchiati. So where do we start with the problems? Perhaps from the very top.

Behind the scenes owner Massimo Ferrero remains deeply unpopular with supporters and that is no surprise considering less than a year ago he was one of six people investigated by Italian tax police over charges ranging from embezzlement, money laundering, misappropriation of funds, fraud, the issuing of false invoices and using money, assets or benefits of illicit origin.

More than €2.6m (£2.2m) is thought to have gone missing from the club’s accounts although his lawyer said the alleged offenses happened several years ago, and added that both his client and Sampdoria were unconcerned by the investigation.   

Eccentric owner Massimo Ferrero has been in charge of Sampdoria for five years

Eccentric owner Massimo Ferrero has been in charge of Sampdoria for five years

Known as the 'little viper', he remains unpopular with supporters who want him to sell the club

Known as the ‘little viper’, he remains unpopular with supporters who want him to sell the club

As someone who had made their money in the movie business, fans are more than a little angry at seeing little evidence of their side growing as a club and threaten the establishment at the top of Serie A.

That anger grew in the summer after an approach from a consortium led by former striker Vialli failed to materialise in a change of ownership. Such is Ferrero’s unpopularity he had to be rescued by police in September from Samp’s ultras who surrounded him while he was eating locally in a Genoa restaurant.

He is nicknamed ‘Viperetta’ (little viper) and is no stranger to confrontation –  he once claimed that the owner of Palermo threatened to kill him.

To Ferrero’s credit since he bought the club in 2014, Sampdoria have not struggled too much in the league in recent times, with their recent run of three consecutive finishes inside the Serie A top ten being their best run since 1998 (a bad omen being they were relegated the next season.)

Former boss Marco Giampaolo was a popular figure at the club before leaving in the summer

Former boss Marco Giampaolo was a popular figure at the club before leaving in the summer

Sampdoria fans have stuck with their team this term despite their plummeting form

Sampdoria fans have stuck with their team this term despite their plummeting form

But those top-half finishes were not down to Di Francesco but to popular boss Marco Giampaolo. His fine work landed him the dream job (poisoned chalice?) of taking on the circus at AC Milan in the summer, yet he too has been dismissed following the continuing clowning around at the San Siro seven games into the season.

So why did Giampaolo not return to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris? It was a logical choice but also not possible. Not until next summer at least as Serie A rules forbid managers taking control of more than one club during a campaign.

The search to replace former Roma boss Di Francesco ended on Saturday with the appointment of Claudio Ranieri, but the ex-Leicester City manager has a huge mess on his plate with this Sampdoria team. For a start they can’t score nor defend.

Only Udinese have netted fewer than their four goals, while their top flight high of 16 conceded means they are letting in an average of over two goals a game. Only Torino have been defeated by them in a far from convincing 1-0 win.

The only win for Samp this season came against Torino courtesy of a Manolo Gabbiadini strike

The only win for Samp this season came against Torino courtesy of a Manolo Gabbiadini strike

The team spent nearly £50million in the summer but this was offset by outgoings of roughly the same figure including key centre-back Joachim Anderson who left for Lyon in a £22million move. Midfielder Dennis Praet was offloaded to Leicester City for £19million.

Replacing Praet was Udinese’s Jakub Jankto, while filling in the void for the crucial Pederson is Alex Ferrari – a deal done on the cheap at £4million from Bologna. Jeison Murillo is also on loan from Valencia subject to a permanent £11m switch.

Most of the summer outlay was spent on a goalkeeper in the form of Emil Audero from Juventus at £18m but that was hardly an upgrade as he had already spent last season on loan at the club.

Fabio Quagliarella struck 26 goals last term but the veteran striker has struggled this season

Fabio Quagliarella struck 26 goals last term but the veteran striker has struggled this season

Claudio Ranieri has been brought in as the new manager to steer them away from relegation

Claudio Ranieri has been brought in as the new manager to steer them away from relegation

The obvious need for investment has always been sticking out like a sore thumb – they need a striker.

At 36-years-old, Fabio Quagliarella had been enjoying a fine Indian summer to his career, rifling in an impressive 26 goals from 37 games last term.

But not many goals came from elsewhere. Gregoire Defrel struck 11 times but he was on loan from Roma and the only other player to net more than six times. Former Southampton striker Manolo Gabbiadini netted the winner recently against Torino but has otherwise struggled.

IT’S NOT GOING WELL FOR THEIR BITTER RIVALS GENOA EITHER!

There is clearly something in the air at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris as Sampdoria are not the only side in turmoil.

Genoa, with who they share the stadium with, have also endured a torrid start to the campaign and sit second from bottom above Samp with just two more points.

Manager Aurelio Andreazzoli is on the brink at the club but is likely to be given time to turn around their fortunes after the international break.

The next derby between the teams, known as the ‘derby della lanterna’ (derby of the lanterns) is on Dec 14.

Sampdoria and city rivals Genoa both play at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris Stadium

Sampdoria and city rivals Genoa both play at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris Stadium

Relying almost solely on Quagliarella – especially given his advancing years – was always a risk and early signs suggest it is not paying off.

Shock relegations are not a new concept at Sampdoria. Following 15 top 10 finishes in 16 Serie A seasons, they endured a torrid campaign that ended with demotion to Serie B in 1999.

While in 2011 they were also relegated just one year after finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League. 

That alone should prove warning to Sampdoria that although it is still early in the season they are not too good to go down.