In May 2010 things were looking good for Genoese side. They had just secured the fourth and final qualifying spot for the Champions League and in doing so finished in their highest position since the 1993-94 season when they finished third under the reign of Sven-Goran Eriksson.
It doesn’t take a tactical genius to figure out what went wrong at Stadio Luigi Ferraris this season… poor defending and lack of goals. Normally one of those factors will put a team at the wrong end of the table but both factors will guarantee relegation.
Since their return to the top flight in 2003-04 they have flirted with European qualification and mid-table obscurity but never seemed in a position to go down to Serie B again any time soon. As this season approached there certainly didn’t seem any cause for concern but, in the best traditions of Calcio, expect the unexpected.
In Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano, the owner, Riccardo Garrone, believed they had a strike force to match the glory days of Samp legends Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini. Perhaps talent-wise he had a point; however he would soon discover that the best laid plans often go wrong.
Cassano was the first to shatter Garrone’s illusion of the dynamic duo taking Sampdoria back into the big time as early as October when his outburst against the owner following his refusal to attend an awards ceremony ended with the club attempting to cancel Cassano’s contract, even a grovelling apology from the temperamental hitman failed to change the owners mind.
The stand-off ended in December when the arbitration panel ordered Sampdoria to re-instate the player to the first team squad. By then it was clear that all relations had broken down and the only outcome was going to be a parting of the ways.
While AC Milan came riding to Cassano, and somewhat Sampdoria’s rescue, top scorer Pazzini also wanted a taste of life in Milan and signed for Inter. Not exactly the January transfer window dealings they had in mind at the start of the season and although with their two best players the season hadn’t exactly taken off, without them it was looking decidedly bleak.
The Pazzini deal brought with it young French striker Jonathan Biabiany. His solitary goal in 16 appearances did little to convince the tifosi that selling il Pazzo was in the best interests of the club. The fact that Samp’s top scorer for the season was still Pazzini on 6 goals says it all about how they did not replace what they had lost.
Manager Domenico Di Carlo was shown the exit door in early March after a run of 7 defeats in 10 league games. The fact that they were also knocked out the Champions League at the qualifying stage and soon after, an early exit from the much-maligned Europa League, did little to instil confidence in the board that they had the right man in charge.
Former Fiorentina, Leece & Brescia coach Alberto Cavasin was brought in to try and stop the club slipping into the relegation zone but ultimately he failed. In truth the vast majority of the damage had already been done.
If the strikers were either not striking or no longer there then the defensive attributes would need to be displayed to their fullest.
At times in the season the defence were the best part of Sampdoria’s game but as the season wore on and the results began to matter that little bit more it soon become their biggest problem. Their inability to keep clean sheets eventually told on them.
Captain Angelo Palombo fell below his high standards this year but he was not alone and mediocrity spread throughout the team. It was all a long way from Gigi Del Neri’s stylish brand of Calcio which inevitably brought him an invitation to play with the bigger boys in the Serie A playground.
Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi expressed his genuine sympathy and disappointment at their local rivals demise and you know things are bad when that happens.
Considering their home form was a big reason for their success in 2009-10 it would have been a difficult pill to swallow to see the team lose so many, particularly after the turn of the year. Defeats to Leece, Parma, Genoa, Cesena and Palmero all contributed to their downfall.
Edoardo Garrone, son of the owner, apologised to fans for the season they had suffered and promised to do whatever it took to make the Blucerchiati great again.
It’s going to have to be a short summer holiday for all at the Luigi Ferraris as they begin to set about restoring the pride and rebuilding a team capable of being mentioned alongside the great teams of the past.
Genoa fans staged a mock funeral to mourn the passing of their rivals. Garrone and the Sampdoria faithful will be hoping for a quick resurrection.
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