Fledgling manager Roberto di Lazaró had guided Sampdoria to a 10th place finish in Serie A in 2021/22. However, that had largely been inspired by the goals of a 19-year-old striker so much work was needed in the summer transfer window to strengthen the squad.
The summer began with another firesale, led by midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, whose contract was up the following summer, joining Arsenal for a decent £10 million. Right-back Fabio Depaoli went to Benevento for £2.2 million and 23 players, including Adrien Silva, Maya Yoshida and Albin Ekdal, were allowed to leave as their contracts expired.
With those players out the door, 14 new players arrived on the day the transfer window opened. That included a defensive rebuild, which saw the arrival of SPAL centre-back Giorgio Scalvini, who was Serie B Player of the Year last season, and Croatian centre-back Duje Caleta-Car for just £2.5 million. A raft of promising youngsters also arrived, of which the pick were interestingly named defender Anselmo García McNulty, who cost just £1 million from Wolfsburg, Spanish midfielders Álvaro Bastida and Javi Guerra, Serbian winger Nemanja Jovic, Argentinian midfielder Facundo Farías and full-back Maxim Gresler, who only cost £55,000.
di Lazaró was all set to bring in a host of new deals when, on 9 July, the Sampdoria board enforced a transfer embargo due to a possible takeover. And four days later it collapsed, leaving his transfer activity well and truly nerfed.
However, not to be disheartened, di Lazaró pressed ahead with his targets and eventually snapped up a potential wonderkid in French winger Rayan Cherki for £5.5 million from Lyon. More exciting wing options arrived in Stipe Biuk for just £3.2 million from Hajduk then exciting 18-year-old Norwegian Andreas Schjelderup for £6 million from Nordsjaelland. Much-needed midfield options arrived as Sivert Mannsverk came in from Molde for £5 million then a loan deal for Leicester’s Boubakary Soumaré.
Elsewhere in the world, Man City splurged £135 million on Erling Haaland, Inter signed Alexander Isak for £60 million, Max Aarons went to Chelsea for £45 million and, for some reason, Arsenal spent £44.5 million on Diego Dalot.
In total, Samp brought in 21 new players and sold 11, in addition to 23 players leaving on frees, amid a massive summer turnover that ended in a net spend of around £16 million. And, with his transfer business complete, di Lazaró decided to commit to the 4-3-3 formation he’d favoured towards the back end of last season with a few little role tweaks. Coming into the new campaign, the board expects a top-half finish, which Samp achieved last season.
Surprisingly strong start to Serie A
The new season began in late July to accommodate for the stupid winter World Cup. And Samp had a ridiculously tough start at home to champions AC Milan. Samp played really well, having more chances and more possession, only for Milan to sneak ahead through Óscar just before the break. However, debutant Caleta-Car nicked an equaliser from an Antonio Cadreva corner on 77 minutes.
It didn’t get much easier at home to Inter but Samp were excellent again. This time another Candreva corner created the opener for Anel Ahmedhodzic then Farías curled home a beauty, also created by Candreva, on his full debut. Inter immediately pulled one back but Samp held on for a much-deserved win.
They then faced a tough trip to Juventus, now managed by Zinedine Zidane, where the good start ended with a 2-0 loss. They bounced back at newly-promoted Perugia, dominating with 19 shots to three but only breaking through late on through midfielder Kristoffer Askilden’s first goal in three years. Last season’s star man Cosimo Marco Da Graca got his first goal of this campaign with the opener at home to Bologna, who had a man sent off on 73 minutes then Samp took control with goals from Mannsverk and Caleta-Car.
The good start continued with a hard-fought 1-1 at Fiorentina, in which Schjeldrup scored his first Samp goal. They ran riot in the first half at home to Spezia and won 4-1 led by a Cosimo brace, which they took into a dominant 3-1 win over Udinese. A five-game unbeaten streak teed up a first Lanterna Derby of the season at home to bottom of the league Genoa. And they again came out flying, racing into a 3-0 lead inside 22 minutes with a Farías penalty and a Cosimo double before Askildsen smashed home a fourth with a 30-yarder. And they of course won 4-0, which took Samp second in the league after nine games!
Two shock away wins
Samp’s great form earned di Lazaró a new three-year contract that boosted his wages from £16,000 to £23,500-a-week. But a tough run of games coincided with goalkeeper Emil Audero suffering a twisted ankle, which saw him miss his first match of di Lazaró’s reign.
However, they continued where they left off as Candreva inspired a 3-2 win at Napoli, in which he scored a screamer to open the scoring and bagged the vital third with 20 minutes remaining. While Cherki bagged his first Samp goal to send his new club top of the league for the first time! They then went to third-place Lazio and Cosimo scored inside nine minutes for a shock lead. Felipe Anderson equalised 10 minutes into the second half, but that man Cosimo went down the other end and scored an outrageously naughty chip to seal an unexpected three points.
The good times kept on rolling as a streak of four away games ended with a 1-1 draw at Torino then a dominant 2-0 win at Empoli inspired by 35-year-old Candreva. The final game before the World Cup break saw Samp entertain next-to-bottom new boys Monza. Farías tucked home a penalty on 10 minutes then left-back Tommaso Augello doubled the tally with his first of the season. Monza got one back out of nowhere but Cherki, making his first league start, restored the two-goal lead just before the break. The increasingly impressive Damsgaard put one on a plate for Cosimo as Samp strolled to a 4-2 win.
That took Samp into the World Cup break on an impressive 11-match unbeaten streak and sitting second in Serie A after 14 games. They trailed an impressive Inter by two points but were four clear of Lazio and Napoli and seven ahead of fifth-place Atalanta. Samp have scored the joint-most goals so far this season with 31. Champions Milan are lingering in ninth and sacked their manager five months after winning the title, while Zidane can only lead Juve to eighth!
Cosimo is the joint-second top scorer in the league with nine goals, only trailing Ciro Immobile (15 in 14). But the main man so far this season has been Candreva, who has the third-highest average rating in the league of 7.48, alongside four goals and six assists, which only Lazio’s Luis Alberto (7) has bettered. While the centre-back partnership of Ahmedhodzic and Caleta-Car has been phenomenal so far this season.
The World Cup meant no league game until January and only two Samp players – Damsgaard and right-back Bartosz Bereszynski – got called up for it. So most of the squad enjoyed more than two months off during the middle of the season!
World Cup 2022
The biggest shock at the World Cup was Argentina being knocked out in the group stages by Switzerland and Spain. Switzerland were at it again in the second round, knocking out Germany on penalties, while England lost 2-1 to Mexico, Spain beat Brazil 1-0 and Austria beat Holland 1-0.
In the quarters, the highlight was Italy beating France 2-1 after extra-time. Belgium beat Austria 3-0, Spain snuck past Mexico on penalties and Portugal beat Switzerland 2-1. Portugal then beat Belgium 2-0 after extra-time and Italy eased past Spain 2-0. And Portugal won the World Cup, defeating Italy 2-1 with goals from Ronaldo and Moutinho. Immobile took his club form into the tournament, finishing as the top scorer with seven goals and, interestingly, Christian Eriksen had the best average rating of 7.75.
While that was happening, a takeover was finally completed as Manolo Sendra replaced former owner Vanessa Ferrero. Frustratingly, having been linked with a tycoon in the summer, the new owner put no money into the club. However, he did boost youth recruitment to “excellent” and cut the fairly pointless affiliate links with Parma and Napoli.
Join us next time as Roberto di Lazaró looks to continue his Sampdoria side’s massive overachievement into the second half of his second season in charge!