Sempre Samp | Part 5: Old Man Candreva Shows The Kids How It’s Done

Sampdoria were performing well above expectations despite a massive overhaul of the playing squad in the summer of 2022. Moving into 2023, Blucerchiati sat second in Serie A as the league resumed following the silly Winter World Cup in Qatar.

di Lazaró continued to move on aging, not very good players as both backup strikers Francesco Caputo and Gianluca Caprari were flogged before their contracts expired for a gain of around £2.5 million. He also sold defender Julian Chabot to Dinamo Moscow for £4.5 million and backup goalkeeper Wladimir Falcone to Frosinone for £325,000.

He replaced the striker numpties with a six-month loan deal for Bayern striker Joshua Zirkzee, whose contract expires in the summer. He also snapped up a couple of exciting youngsters and his first newgen signings in right-back Maximilian León, who cost £1 million from Boca and is considered the best prospect at the club, and language expert Uruguayan striker Nicolás Siri, who joined on a free from M.C. Torque. At the opposite end of the scale, he brought in legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, now aged 44, as a backup. Then, in the final hour of deadline day, he snuck in with a loan deal to bring in Yacine Adli from AC Milan for six months.

Serie A resumes

A two-month break ended with a home game against Salernitana, who had 39-year-old Franck Ribery in midfield. They made hard work of it, but Samp eventually began the new year with a win thanks to Duje Caleta-Car’s late strike. Elsewhere, Juve failed to win again and sacked Zidane after just five months in charge and Ciro Immobile scored all six in a 6-1 win at Perugia, which takes him to 21 in 15!

They then travelled to two hipsters’ favourites within the same week as a Mikkel Damsgaard double inspired a 3-1 win at Sassuolo before a solid defensive effort earned a 1-1 at Atalanta. They then had a cup game at Sassuolo, in which di Lazaró turned out a second 11 that saw Buffon become the club’s oldest-ever player aged 44 years 355 days and youth product Augusto Scaburri became its youngest-ever player aged 16 years 87 days. Buffon is genuinely old enough to be Scaburri’s grandad!

A crazy 3-3 draw with Lecce saw Candreva claim all three assists but was let down by shocking goalkeeping from Emil Audero, who decided he fancied a move after a ridiculous loan bid from Inter was rejected. The midfielder then scored a stunning long-ranger to earn a 1-1 draw at Roma, which began another tough run of games as they drew 0-0 at home to Juve and narrowly lost 1-0 at champions Milan. That ended a run of 17 games without defeat but also continued a run of five without a win, which extended with a 1-1 at Bologna.

Samp snapped that unwanted streak at home to bottom side Perugia, but somehow only won 1-0 through Rayan Cherki, despite having 25 shots and 2.07 xG to the visitors’ five and 0.43. But a win’s a win. And it gave them the confidence to defeat a strong Fiorentina side 2-0 with Cherki creating both goals for striker Cosimo Marco Da Graca, which ended his 10-hour goal drought, and Adli’s first for the club. In that game, di Lazaró threw Buffon on in injury-time to become the oldest-ever Serie A player aged 45 years 22 days. Legend.

The evergreen Antonio Candreva scored another stunner to defeat Spezia 2-1 away before Samp were dreadful in a first half at Udinese, who led at the break having had 12 shots to nine. But the visitors woke up in the second period as Damsgaard, back after an injury, laid on Zirkzee’s first for the club and an own goal as well as scoring himself to inspire a probably undeserved 3-1 win.

A tough run of games

A big game saw Napoli come to town and Samp got a flyer as Cherki teed up Facundo Farías to score a 25-yarder. Osimhen got Napoli level after the break but Samp dominated the game and deservedly nicked it as Ahmedhodzic stabbed home an injury-time winner. That win moved Samp seven points clear of fourth-place Napoli and 11 clear of Juve with 11 games remaining, so European football looks like a real possibility as a tough run of games continued.

A dire 0-0 Lanterna Derby moved Samp onto 60 points, which is apparently just seven behind the club’s all-time record points total. But they took a hammering at runaway leaders Inter and were lucky to only lose 3-1 then hugely improved to dominate second-placed Lazio with 26 shots to nine but drew 2-2, largely because of Immobile being ridiculous.

Chasing club records

The fixture list eased up a little but Samp were again wasteful as they beat Torino 1-0 despite 2.42 xG. But they kicked into gear to thump Empoli 3-1, as Candreva scored and created one for Cherki then Damsgaard rounded off a brilliant team move before the break, to tie the club record points total. And they smashed it as Damsgaard created both Cosimo goals to beat Monza 2-1 and move onto 70 points.

Cosimo was at the double again as a 2-1 win at Salernitana set a new club record 21st victory of the season. But they slipped to defeat at home to an impressive Sassuolo then drew at Lecce but results elsewhere meant Samp qualified for the Champions League proper for the first time in the club’s history!

The season concluded with two tough home games. And two solid defensive efforts inspired a 1-0 win over Atalanta, decided by a Cherki strike created by Candrea, then a 0-0 with Roma, who had 28 shots, 13 on target and 2.28 xG but couldn’t get past Audero.

That ensured Samp finished in an impressive third place, which earned them £14.36 million. They finished with 78 points after 22 wins, 12 draws and just four defeats, scoring 66 – which was 24 more than last season – and conceding 36. But they were a huge 18 points behind an impressive Inter, just three behind Lazio and three clear of Sassuolo, who finished the season with a ridiculous 10 successive wins! Juve missed out on Europe and Roma finished in 10th. While city rivals Genoa were relegated on the final day with Lecce and Perugia.

The evergreen Candreva got the most assists in Serie A with 18, three clear of Roma’s Veretout. But mention has to go to Immobile, who broke the Serie A goalscoring record with 43 goals in 37 games – more than double the next top goalscorer, Sassuolo’s Raspadori on 21. And the team’s overachievement saw di Lazaró win Serie A Manager of the Year!

Season Review

Samp’s main man this season was 36-year-old Candreva, who defied his age with seven goals and 18 assists at an average rating of 7.41 in 37 games. He has been phenomenal this season! Another key man has been centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic, who scored eight goals and averaged 7.38, which has attracted the interest of Real Madrid, Man City and many more.

Cosimo was again the top scorer with 20 goals in 37 appearances, while Caleta-Car, Cherki and Damsgaard popped up with six each. Damsgaard also got 10 assists but struggled towards the end of the season, Andreas Schjeldrup and Farías got seven assists and Cherki got four.

Four Samp players – Schjeldrup (5th), Siri (36th), Giorgio Scalvini (41st) and Cherki (43rd) – made the NxGN 2023 list, which was won by Jude Bellingham and shows the promise in this young squad. And there’s plenty more to come as Samp won the Under 20 Cup and the Primavera 1 league title inspired by exciting winger Valentin Decarpentrie. While this year’s youth intake was led by exciting right-back Simone Daidone, who has 5-star potential (not sure why that’s no longer displayed on their main profile) and is already the fourth-best right-back at the club. There were also 3.5-star potential youngsters.

A look around Europe

Liverpool defended their Premier League title on goal difference from Man City, while Newcastle finished 15th despite spending £90 million. Real Madrid defended La Liga on 91 points, 14 clear of Real Sociedad with Barca down in sixth and Atletico seventh. PSG dominated Ligue 1, 18 points clear of Monaco, and Bayern won the Bundesliga by 15 points from Dortmund. But there was a surprise in Holland as Feyenoord won the title, two points clear of Ajax.

Bayern won the Champions League, beating City 2-0 in the final with a Lewandowski brace, and Liverpool – who were knocked out of the Champions League group by Lille and Roma – won the Europa League, beating Napoli on penalties.

Join us next time as Roberto di Lazaró leads his Sampdoria side into the Champions League and looks to keep hold of some of his better performers with a very tight budget.

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