Great Calcio Sides: Sampdoria 1988-92
Although fans of Sampdoria may not be having the best of times at the moment, with their team languishing in Serie B, they will never forget the achievements of their side during the late 1980’s and early 90’s, undoubtedly the glory years of the club.
The pinnacle of their success came with the Scudetto triumph of 1991 (their only league title), and given the strength of Serie A at the time, it was a massive accomplishment for a team that previously had never finished higher than fourth.
A Coppa Italia title in 1985 was Sampdoria’s first major honour, but the cycle of success really began with the appointment of Serbian manager (or Yugoslavian, as he was at the time) Vujadin Boskov, at the start of the 1986-87 season. He would go on to become ‘Doria’s very own ‘special one’, bringing a period of unprecedented glory that will never be forgotten.
Boskov was a former Samp player, spending a year at the club during the sixties, and returned to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris with an impressive managerial C.V., having won titles with both Real Madrid and Ascoli (Serie B). The Serbian quickly instilled his ideas within the squad, and the trophies soon followed, the first being the Coppa Italia in 1988.
In their second attempt at the competition, Samp went one better and won the Cup Winners Cup, and with a haul of three trophies in two years, Boskov’s talented team had become a force to be reckoned with.
Despite their Cup successes, few expected Il Doria to get close to the Scudetto. As the 1990-91 campaign began, Serie A was the greatest league on the planet, boasting some of the finest teams of recent times.
The previous year, Napoli had claimed the title with Diego Maradona at the peak of his powers. Trappatoni’s Inter Milan had been victorious in 1989, with a team including Zenga, Bergomi, Matthaus and Klinsmann. Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan were the kings of Europe and Juventus had just signed Roberto Baggio!
Luckily for Sampdoria they had some special players of their own, who had gelled into one of the most entertaining counter-attacking sides the country has ever seen. While winning the league required a massive team effort, in which the whole squad played it’s part, it was the quality of certain individuals that enabled Samp to take on the best football had to offer, and win.
In front of him stood one of the meanest defences in the league, marshaled by Italian International Pietro Vierchowod. Also helping out with defensive duties was holding midfielder Fausto Pari, whose disciplined performances allowed the attacking players the freedom to get forward.
Sampdoria exploited the flanks when hitting teams on the break, and on the right side in particular they were a constant danger to the opposition.
Right back Moreno Mannini loved to get forward whenever possible and link up with another young star of the future, Atillio Lombardo. It was during the Scudetto winning season that Lombardo gained his reputation as one of Calcio’s most dangerous wingers, his pace, direct runs and crossing ability caused havoc to opposing defences.
The stars of the show however, were the two players whose talents complemented each other to perfection, and together formed Sampdoria’s best ever strike-partnership, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli. Mancini provided the magic and guile, playing in the trequartista role, laying on countless assists for his team-mates, as well as chipping in with 12 league goals.
The main beneficiary of Mancini’s vision was of course Vialli, who was an out and out predator in front of goal. Knowing that his intelligent movement would be seen by his strike partner was no doubt a joy for Vialli, who finished the season with 19 goals in Serie A.
With top class players covering all areas of the pitch, Sampdoria fully deserved their Scudetto. The team only lost three games all season, and took maximum points off Napoli, AC Milan and Inter, as well as gaining four points out of six from Juventus! At the end of the campaign, Il Doria sat proudly at the top of Serie A, five points clear of AC Milan in second place.
Samp had scored more goals than anyone else and also had the second best defence in the league, a truly remarkable achievement and the highlight of a glorious era for everybody connected with the club.
Although Sampdoria never reached such lofty heights again, they were not quite finished there. At the start of 1991-92 season, the team added the Italian Super Cup to their trophy cabinet, and went on a European Cup run that took them all the way to the final. Held at Wembly, Samp faced the mighty Barcelona and took the game into extra-time, only to have their dreams of European glory crushed by a fierce strike from Ronald Koeman.
The defeat to Barca marked the beginning of the end for this particular group of players. Over the next few years Pagliuca, Lombardo, Mancini and Vialli were all sold on to the traditional ‘big boys’ of Serie A, and manager Vojadin Boskov also left the club, to be replaced by Sven Goran Eriksson.
The success that Sampdoria had achieved meant that they were able to bring in some big names, such as David Platt and Ruud Gullit, and a further Coppa Italia was won under Eriksson’s tenure. However, the next generation were unable to reach the levels of the class of 91, and no ‘Doria team has since, cementing Boskov and his players status as legends to the Sampdoria faithful.
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