Much to the amazement of Italian football fans and pundits alike, Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella has been in the form of his career when most players his age are usually declining.
The 36-year-old scored a consolation goal in the 2-1 defeat to Lazio on Sunday evening but that strike was his 23rd for the Serie A campaign, beating Vincenzo Montella’s tally of 22 from the 1996/97 season.
Montella’s achievement was incredible in its own right. He finished just two goals behind leading goalscorer Filippo Inzaghi from Atalanta, was playing in his first season in Italy’s top flight after scoring 21 goals for city rivals Genoa in the 1995/96 Serie B campaign, and Italian football was undoubtedly at its peak in that era.
For Quagliarella to be Sampdoria’s most prolific goalscorer in a league season since then is a remarkable achievement as well, not just because of his age or that the Blucerchiati are not as strong as they were in the 1990s.
After his first season with Il Doria, Montella scored 20 Serie A goals in the following year, and 12 in 1998/99, when the Blucerchiati were relegated and he was sold to Roma. When Samp returned to the elite level in 2003/04, their attack consisted of Francesco Flachi and Fabio Bazzani, who had scored 11 and 13 goals respectively in that campaign.
Bazzani failed to hit double figures again while Flachi achieved it in the following two seasons, his highest total being 14 goals in 2004/05. Unfortunately his career at the Genoese club came to an ignominious end after he had been suspended for his involvement in a better scandal and then banned for taking cocaine.
Sampdoria’s next major attacking pair consisted of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, who helped the Blucerchiati reach the 2009 Coppa Italia Final, losing to Lazio on penalties, and achieved qualification for the Champions League qualifiers after finishing fourth in the 2009/10 season.
In three-and-a-half seasons with the Doriani, Cassano hit double figures in 2008/19 with 12 Serie A goals while Pazzini scored 11 times in the second half of the 2008/09 season and found the back of the net on 19 occasions in the following league campaign.
After the duo were sold in the January transfer window of 2011, Sampdoria were relegated to Serie B, but were back in the top flight in 2012/13. Forwards like Eder, Mauro Icardi, Manolo Gabbiadini, and Stefano Okaka emerged but neither of them came within reach of scoring 20 goals in a season.
Quagliarella had scored 13 times in the 2006/07 Serie A season and he returned in the winter of 2016 for a second stint. Since his former coach at Ascoli Marco Giampaolo joined Sampdoria in the summer of that year, not only has the Castellamare di Stabia hit double figures, he has kept on improving his tallies.
With four matches remaining, he is on course to become the league’s leading goalscorer, and the last Doriani player to do that was Gianluca Vialli in the 1990/91 campaign, when the club won their solitary scudetto.
Sampdoria have produced some fantastic strikers in their history including Quagliarella and for him to be the first Blucerchiati player to score over 20 goals in a season for the first time in two decades is a superb achievement.