Published On: Thu, Jan 31st, 2013

Sampdoria Club Focus: A Decade of Riccardo Garrone

Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone passed away last week at the age of 76 and his son Edoardo has replaced him. Garrone Snr will be remembered positively and negatively. He saved the club from bankruptcy in 2002 yet relegation from Serie A in 2011 left a sour taste in the mouth, mainly because Sampdoria’s squad was weakened.

The Garrone era will be also remembered for the shrewd purchases made, promotion to the Serie A in 2003, the 2009 Coppa Italia Final and finishing fourth in 2009-10, resulting in a Champions League qualification spot. Aspirations of European qualification seemed so distant when Sampdoria were languishing in Serie B in 2002 until Garrone arrived.

Enrico Mantovani was the president at the time and like Edoardo Garrone, he also became Sampdoria president when his father Paolo passed away in 1993. He didn’t possess the same enthusiasm as his father and he didn’t have a great relationship with club icon Roberto Mancini, resulting in the forward’s departure in 1997.

The club was on its final legs until Riccardo Garrone bought the club in January 2002. I doriani finished 10th in the 2001-02 Serie B season and Sampdoria won promotion to Serie A in Garrone’s first full season as president in 2002-03. Siena finished ahead of Samp on goal difference.

Garrone had brought in Giuseppe ‘Beppe’ Marotta as sporting director to build up a competitive squad. Players such as Sergio Volpi, Fabio Bazzani and future captain Angelo Palombo arrived and Walter Novellino became the coach. Sampdoria were competitive in Serie A on their return, finishing eighth in 2003-04.

The Genoese side missed out on qualification for the UEFA Cup by four points. Udinese finished ahead of Samp and in the following season, a similar scenario occurred. Both teams battle for fourth spot and Champions League qualification and Udinese won the battle by a solitary point.

In those seasons battling against Udinese, Novellino built his team around the 4-4-2 formation. Volpi and Palombo were his pair of central midfielders and Bazzani and Francesco Flachi formed his attacking duo. This was a team of unknowns punching above their weight but Novellino’s last two seasons at Samp weren’t as impressive.

The 2006-07 season was Novellino’s last as Sampdoria coach and the lasting memory was the emergence of Fabio Quagliarella. Quags finished the season with 13 goals in 35 matches. His lob away to Chievo was the pick of the lot but his other goals too amazed Sampdoria fans and neutrals alike.

Samp were in battle with Udinese again, this time for the full ownership of Quagliarella. A deal couldn’t be completed so both clubs went into a blind auction. Udinese triumphed, by bidding at €7.3 million (£6.25m) as opposed to Samp’s €6.5m (£5.57m). Garrone didn’t make the most of his investment and it wouldn’t be the last time.

After failing to hold onto Quagliarella, the 2007 summer saw the arrival of arguably the most famous (or infamous, for some) signing of the Garrone era. The enfant terrible of calcio, Antonio Cassano, arrived on a one-year loan from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Doria finished sixth under new coach Walter Mazzarri and Cassano scored 10 goals and assisted in six goals in 22 matches of the 2007-08 Serie A season. Cassano was purchased on a free transfer in 2008 but Real Madrid were still entitled to bonuses under certain circumstances.

Cassano was the ideal seconda punta after the departures of Flachi and Quagliarella in 2007 but the team lacked a centre-forward to replace Bazzani. Mazzarri’s second season at Sampdoria saw the team struggle for goals. Cassano would alternate roles with Gennaro Delvecchio, playing as a lone striker in some matches and then being the attacking midfielder in others.

Mazzarri’s 3-5-1-1 formation wasn’t working so in January 2009, another significant signing of the Garrone era arrived. Giampaolo Pazzini was bought from Fiorentina for €9m (£7.7m) and injury-prone striker Emiliano Bonazzoli was thrown into the deal. For both Pazzo and Doria, it was the best thing for both parties.

I doriani finished 13th in the Serie A but Pazzini scored 11 goals in the league and Sampdoria reached the Coppa Italia final for the first time since 1994. Lazio won on penalties, which were ironically coached by current Samp coach Delio Rossi. What followed the cup loss was the best season of the Garrone era.

Luigi Del Neri replaced Walter Mazzarri for the 2009-10 season and the Cassano-Pazzini partnership in attack really came into fruition. Cassano scored nine goals and Pazzini scored 19 as Sampdoria finished fourth and qualified for the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.

Sadly this was as good as it got for Samp. Domenico Di Carlo replaced Del Neri, Beppe Marotta went to Juventus and the team flopped in Europe. After losing in agonising circumstances to Werder Bremen in the Champions League qualifiers, Samp were eliminated in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

Sampdoria were on a ‘highway to hell’ in 2010-11. Adding to the failure in Europe, Riccardo Garrone froze Cassano out of the team after he failed to attend an award ceremony with him. He was sold to Milan for €3.3m (£2.82m) and Pazzini also left in January 2011, going to Inter for Jonathan Biabiany and €12m (£10.27m).

To replace their famed attack, Samp got youngster Federico Macheda on loan and bought veteran Massimo Maccarone. Emerging forward Guido Marilungo was also sold to Atalanta and defender Pietro Accardi went on loan to Brescia, only months after full-back Marius Stankevicius went to Spain and keepers Marco Storari and Luca Castellazzi went to Juventus and Inter respectively.

For all the doom and gloom occurring post-Marotta, January 2011 witnessed another shrewd purchase. It would take near two years to realise how good this purchase was but for the time being, the move was completed without much fanfare. Mauro Icardi, a then 17-year-old Argentine centre-forward, was bought from Barcelona, who believed that he couldn’t adapt to the tiki-taka.

At the time, Macheda had more hype around him than Icardi but he couldn’t fulfil his potential. Maccarone wasn’t the same form as he was for Siena and Alberto Cavasin replaced Di Carlo as coach in March. From being mid-table, Samp slowly sunk into the relegation zone. After a 2-1 loss to Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna, Samp’s nightmares became a reality.

Losing 2-1 to Palermo in Round 37 mathematically confirmed Samp’s relegation. Sampdoria fans were on a high in 2010 yet it all came crashing down in one season. A mock funeral created by Genoa’s fans rubbed more salt into the wound.

Wingers Daniele Mannini and Stefano Guberti were let go for peanuts and by the time Serie B started in 2011-12, Daniele Gastaldello and Palombo were the only regulars from Del Neri’s solitary campaign that remained. By now, Garrone Snr had decreased his involvement due to poor health.

Young defensive midfielder Pedro Obiang, fantasista Pasquale Foggia and forward Nicola Pozzi made sure that Doria were back in Serie A in no time, albeit through the play-offs. Giuseppe Iachini took over midway through the campaign, only to be replaced by Ciro Ferrara before the current Serie A season started.

Sporting director Pasquale Sensibile had brought in Argentine international keeper Sergio Romero for Serie B in the previous season and for Serie A, Lorenzo De Silvestri, Enzo Maresca and Maxi Lopez arrived. Andrea Poli and Angelo Palombo returned from loan spells at Inter but Palombo was frozen out by Ferrara until his sacking.

Sampdoria is in the lower half of the Serie A table now and Delio Rossi and Carlo Osti have replaced Ferrara and Sensibile respectively. Edoardo Garrone is now in full control of the club and he must learn from his father’s mistakes as well as Enrico Mantovani’s mistakes. If runs the club properly, stability will remain.

After Garrone Snr passed away last week, there was a minute of silence for him before the match against Pescara. Doria won 6-0 and Icardi, that young forward who arrived two years earlier, scored four goals. He is now considered to be a star of the future and another possible oriundo.

The victory paid homage to all the good things Garrone Snr did for Samp. Now that he is gone, his son now has the task of making this club a mid-table team or push for Europe. Hopefully for Sampdoria fans, the nightmares of 2010-11 are gone and memories of 2009-10 can be evoked.

Edoardo Garrone has Samp’s future in his hands. The ship can sink again or he can create an even brighter future for Sampdoria and its fans. Perhaps with a youngster like Icardi on the field, that future is a potentially bright one.

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