The wonderful world of Football Manager Beta brings us back to Italy for the second season in a row. This time around, FM22 sees us take the reins at Sampdoria, for no particular reason other than I fancied the challenge.
The inspiration began when I was randomly watching Serie A on BT Sport and Sampdoria were playing at home to (I think) Udinese, and seeing their iconic ground brought back memories of watching Italian football in the 1990s. They’ve also achieved very little and have beautiful kits, and they’re a team I’ve never managed on FM before.
Who are Sampdoria?
Unione Calcio Sampdoria was founded in 1946 and play in the Italian city of Genoa, which is directly south of Turin and Milan up on the coast up in the north-west of Italy. Nicknamed Blucerchiati, the club’s only fierce rival is Genoa, against whom they contest the Lanterna Derby, while they also have an historic derby with Torino.
Sampdoria has only won one Serie A title back in 1991, with one third-place finish in 1994. And it was down in Serie B as recently as 2012. It also has four Italian Cup wins in 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1994, a European Cup Winners Cup win in 1990 and was runners-up in the 1992 European Cup (Champions League). Last season, Samp finished in 9th place in Serie A and its highest finish in the last 20 years was 4th in 2010.
The club counts some truly legendary players amongst its favoured staff. The likes of Vincenzo Montella, Clarence Seedorf, David Platt and Sinisa Mihajlovic are among its icons, while club captain Fabio Quagliarella tops the legends list ahead of Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Pagliuca, Attilio Lombardo, Robero Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and Trevor Francis.
Sampdoria play at the 36,599 capacity Luigi Ferraris, which it shares with Genoa and pays £299,000 annual rent. The club has adequate youth coaching and average youth recruitment, which needs a little attention, plus superb training facilities and good youth facilities. Strangely, the club has a national partnership with Napoli that allows Napoli to send players on loan to Samp.
The finances aren’t amazing, with a starting balance of £13.1 million, a transfer budget of £7.6 million and a weekly wage budget of £609,000, of which £573,000 is being spent. The club also has a dubious sounding miscellaneous debt of £41.5 million, which is payable at £185,000-per-month until 2039.
FM22 sees a new character join the FMA roster as Roberto di Lazaró took the reins as Sampdoria manager as the club celebrates its 75th season. di Lazaró’s new board expects the manager to play entertaining gootball and sign players from the lower reaches of the Italian league system. It wants a mid-table finish and, slightly worryingly, the club’s owner is actively looking to sell the club in the next two years.
The best players at Sampdoria ability-wise are 33-year-old striker Francesco Caputo, who’s on loan from Sassuolo and joins permanently at the end of the season, and 34-year-old winger Antonio Candreva. They’re closely followed by midfielders Adrien Silva, who’s a personal favourite player from an old Sporting save, Morten Thorsby and Albin Ekdal, left-back Tommaso Augello and legendary 38-year-old striker Quagliarella.
The best prospect at the club is EURO 2020 star Mikkel Damsgaard, along with on-loan midfielder Mohamed Ihattaren and Norwegian midfielder Kristoffer Askildsen. However, a big concern is the age of the squad, which contains seven players over 30, 11 over 25, and just one under 20. While the under 20 and under 18 squads contain zero worthwhile prospects.
di Lazaró began by moving on some of the deadwood at the club, including 28-year-old defender Omar Colley moving to Lille for £4.1 million. His first signing was central defender Anel Ahmedhodzic, who came in from Malmo for £4 million rising to £6.5 million. Aside from that, he also renewed the contract of Damsgaard, who went from earning £3,000 to £22,000-a-week. And he strengthened his backroom staff, including the addition of Dennis Bergkamp as a coach.
With that work done, the squad to begin the season was as follows:
Goalkeepers: Emil Audero, Wladimiro Falcone, Nicolo Raviglia
Right-backs: Bartosz Bereszynski, Fabio Depaoli
Centre-backs: Anel Ahmedhozic, Maya Yoshida, Julien Chabot, Alex Ferrari
Left-backs: Tommaso Augello, Nicola Murru
Centre midfielders: Adrien Silva, Morten Thorsby, Albin Ekdal (vc), Ronaldo Vieira, Valerio Verre
Wingers: Antonio Candreva, Mikkel Damsgaard, Mohamed Ihattaren
Strikers: Francesco Caputo, Fabio Quagliarella (c), Manolo Gabbiadini, Ernesto Torregrossa
With these options, di Lazaró set about creating a few different tactical options. This included a control possession approach 4-3-3, a more defensive, direct counter-attacking 3-5-2, and a hybrid defensive/attacking asymmetric 4-4-2 with a defensive midfielder.
Life at Samp begins
di Lazaró’s first game in charge of Blucerchiati was an Italian Cup first round clash with affiliate club Parma, who start in Serie B and had Gianluigi Buffon in goal. He lined up in a 4-3-3 consisting of:
Audero; Bereszynski, Ahmedhodzic, Yoshida, Augello; Thorsby, Ekdal, Vieira; Candreva, Damsgaard; Quagliarella
Samp came out flying and early pressure paid off as Quagliarella headed home a Candreva corner on 18 minutes. Thorsby doubled the lead with a nice curled effort six minutes later and Quagliarella doubled his tally after an hour to seal an easy 3-0 success.
Serie A began with a really tough test away to Atalanta. di Lazaró stuck with the same formation and they were a little unlucky to fall to a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Zapata’s40th-minute tap in from a corner. Candreva missed two sitters late on that should have sealed a point, but there were plenty of positives from a narrow defeat.
A first home game saw Salernitana come to town and take the lead with their only attack of the first half as Simy converted a Franck Ribéry cross. But the hosts well and truly bossed the match and turned things around as Candreva finished off a superb team move then Quagliarella tucked home a Damsgaard cross. There was plenty to enjoy about the performance, but only 1.27 xG from 16 shots was a slight concern.
First Transfer Deadline Day!
All the hullabaloo and downright nonsense that surrounds deadline day came to Sampdoria on 31 August 2021. Realistically, Samp didn’t have the resources to do much, but di Lazaró put in a cheeky £4 million bid for Thilo Kehrer, who rudely wanted a ridiculous £130,000-a-week. But he did complete a loan deal for Wolves full-back Ki-Jana Hoever to provide extra defensive cover.
Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has predicted to be the top scorer in Serie A, moved to PSG for £3.8 million, which proved to be the only interesting deadline day deal. The biggest deal of the summer was Ferland Mendy joining City from Real for £54 million and Anthony Martial joined Chelsea from Man UFC for £28 million. But all in all, a pretty quiet summer, with even moneybags Newcastle only buying Eqezuiel Barco for £5 million.
The first few weeks have also been dominated by reports of owner Vanessa Ferrero looking to step down from and relinquish control of the club. Whether that means a takeover will be needed or she’ll simply allow another member of the board to take control remains to be seen.
Join us next time as Roberto di Lazaró pushes on into the first season of life in Sampdoria!