The impressive rise of Sampdoria saw them finish second in Serie A for a second successive season. They remained some way behind a dominant Inter but, with the full Football Manager 2022 now live, manager Roberto di Lazaró was keen to take a title fight to Nerazzurri in potentially a final season in Italy.
The summer of 2025 began with Samp, apparently, passing the objective of developing the best youth system in Italy, which seems fairly hard to prove considering the youth intakes still aren’t very good.
Several players who weren’t up to it were moved on, including Samuele Ricci joining West Brom for £17.5 million, Yann Monier going to Spurs for £3 million, Welmo moving to Milan for £2 million, full-back Glauber joining Bologna for £2.1 million, Mickael Cuisance going to Fulham for £1 million and right-back Maximiliano León going to River for £750,000.
That gave the manager a transfer kitty of more than £40 million to work with. And he decided to take a bit of a gamble smashing the Sampdoria club record by signing 6ft 4in Belgian attacker Charles De Ketelaere for £25 million from RB Leipzig. Joining him were exciting Mexican right-back José Mercado for £5 million from León, and some much-needed experience in beastly centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly for £300,000. They also renewed loan deals for left-back Rayan Ait-Nouri from Spurs and winger Ilias Akhomach from Barcelona. Before adding some attacking experience and quality in Russian winger Alexey Miranchuk for £4.5 million from Lazio.
The new signings saw di Lazaró set up like this:
De Ketelaere makes a flying start
The new season began at home to Fiorentina and the new signings had an immediate impact. De Ketelaere scored inside four minutes then Miranchuk laid on a goal for Andreas Schjelderup and scored himself inside 27 minutes. De Ketelaere setup Cosimo Marco Da Graca’s first of the season just after the break to seal a huge 4-0 win.
De Ketelaere then created the opener and scored again in a 2-1 win at Napoli, which Samp dominated with 20 shots to seven. He also scored a screamer as they somehow only beat Verona 2-1 after 29 shots to five and nodded home an equaliser at Roma, which inspired them onto an emphatic 4-1 win!
The Belgian then bagged a brace as Samp again conceded first but won the Lanterna Derby at home to Genoa 3-1. After five league games, De Ketelaere already had six goals and two assists – which equalled his total of six goals in 20 games for Leipzig last season – and he inspired his new club to a 100% start.
But a big test of the winning start came at Milan, who scored their first shots through Rafael Leao and he wrapped up his hat-trick before Edvin Ekenhard got a consolation with his first goal for the club. Samp got back to winning ways by thumping local rivals Torino 4-1 led by a Cosimo brace, Rayan Cherki’s first of the campaign and Ekenhard scoring off the bench again. They again trailed to an opponent’s first shot at home to Empoli but another Cosimo double inspired another comeback win.
Another strong run of form saw a draw at Bologna before “Classy Cosimo” hit a hat-trick in a 4-2 win at Parma. The striker has 11 goals in 10 league games, won the November player of the month and has led his team to the top of Serie A. That continued with Cosimo and De Ketelare goals in a 2-0 win at Monza, then racing into a 4-0 lead at ninth-place Frosinone after half an hour and won 4-1.
Three crunch games
Samp faced three huge games in 10 days, with Lazio at home, a trip to Inter then hosting Juve. First up, they dominated fourth-place Lazio by 26 shots to eight and won 3-1 thanks to a Schjelderup masterclass and another De Ketelaere goal.
That teed up a massive second vs. top clash, with Samp leading still unbeaten Inter by one point. However, in four trips to Inter, Samp had suffered four defeats. But this season is very different as a De Ketelaere header got Samp ahead and they defended heroically to deny Inter and claim a massive 1-0 win.
Zebre followed and their manager Jorge Jesus claimed di Lazaró’s side “don’t know how to beat my lot.” di Lazaró printed the comments out and stuck them on the dressing room wall pre-game to charge his boys up. But, despite dominating Juve by 19 shots to eight, they were held to a 0-0 on the same day Inter drew at Frosinone.
The final gameday before the winter break saw Samp nick a 1-0 win at Udinese thanks to another De Ketelaere goal as Inter drew 1-1 at Juve.
That sent Samp into a two-week break with a six-point lead over Inter at the top of the table and a nine-point gap to Milan in third. They’ve won 14 out of 17, drawn two and lost one, scored a joint-high 14 and conceded 12, while Inter have only conceded seven goals!
Cosimo is the top scorer in the league with 15 goals despite not scoring in his last four. While the top three average ratings in the league are Schjelderup, De Ketelaere and Cosimo (7.70, 7.67 and 7.52). De Ketelare, in particular, has been exceptional with 10 goals and five assists from the left-wing, while Schjelderup has maintained his magnificent form of last season.
Champions League struggles
Another tough group draw saw Samp in with Chelsea (again), Dortmund and Ajax. They started well with a 2-1 win in Amsterdam but a rotated side got ripped apart by Moukoko and Jonathan David in Dortmund, got battered twice by Chelsea but beat Ajax 2-1 again at home to finish third.
Join us next time as Roberto di Lazaró looks to maintain his Sampdoria’s strong start and chases the club’s second league title and first in 34 years!