Sampdoria endured a tumultuous 2019/20 campaign but 2020/21 was a season in which the Ligurian side experienced more tranquillity.
The Blucerchiati finished the season in ninth place with 52 points, perhaps exceeding expectations with such a limited squad. Under Coach Claudio Ranieri, Il Doria were a team in which the whole was clearly greater than the sum of its parts.
Despite the midtable finish, they showed that they could defeat some of Serie A stronger teams. After losing the first two matches of the season, Sampdoria earned victories against Fiorentina, Lazio, and Atalanta, climbing as high as sixth. The Genoese team did go winless in the next six matches, dropping as low as 15th in the table, before victories against Hellas Verona and Crotone helped them to stabilise.
A surprise 2-1 victory against eventual champions Inter in Round 16 was a particular highlight and the 2-0 scoreline against Roma in Round 34 did not reflect enough on Sampdoria’s dominance of I Giallorossi.
Player of the Season: Antonio Candreva
Arriving on loan from Inter, Candreva’s acquisition was announced by Sampdoria on social media with a video of the veteran winger working as a waiter while serving Blucerchiati captain Fabio Quagliarella.
Regardless if you thought it was creative or tedious, the 34-year-old proved to be a valuable signing for I Doriani. Operating as a right-midfielder, Candreva suited Ranieri’s tactics perfectly, working hard down the flank and also supplying his teammates with plenty of passes and crosses.
The former Inter winger scored five goals in 35 Serie A matches, and he also supplied eight assists, the most for a Samp player this season.
Best Signing: Mikkel Damsgaard
It would have been logical to have nominated Candreva for this category too because he was a new arrival, but Damsgaard has been one of the great discoveries of the season.
The 20-year-old was signed from Nordsjaelland in his native Denmark for €6.75 million and he went on to score twice as well as provide four assists in his maiden Serie A campaign.
Undoubtedly the most memorable of the assists was in the victory against Inter, when he dribbled from the halfway line to set up Keita Balde for the second Sampdoria goal.
Damsgaard performs at his best when he is on the left-wing but he can also play well as a right-winger or an attacking midfielder. His form for Il Doria also earned him a call-up for the Danish national team and he has scored twice in as many games for his country.
The Coach: Claudio Ranieri
Aside from the occasional tactical experiment, Ranieri remained faithful to his preferred 4-4-2 formation. Sampdoria would often defend deep and then hit on the break, while also emphasising wing play.
Although the evergreen Quagliarella finished as leading goalscorer with 13 goals in Serie A, Il Doria still had their share of contributors. Keita Balde found the back of the net seven times, Jakub Jankto six times, and Candreva scored five.
Ranieri’s philosophy was simple for the players to follow. Defend in numbers, display fighting spirit, and break quickly, and it got the best out of a few players.
Tommaso Augello was sensational at left-back, Jankto had undoubtedly his best season with the Blucerchiati as a left midfielder, and Morten Thorsby was excellent in central midfield while attacking midfielder Valerio Verre made some useful cameo appearances.
Ranieri and Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero could not agree on a sufficient contract extension so Ranieri left after Il Doria’s 3-0 victory against Parma in the final round of the season.
Although Sampdoria registered some impressive victories against quality opponents and scored some superb goals, the moment most people will remember was the guard of honour the Blucerchiati paid Inter after the Italian giants had secured their first Serie A title since 2009/10.
Despite going to lose the Round 35 fixture 5-1, Samp’s great example of sportsmanship will not be forgotten quickly and the gesture is a great reflection on their coach, who is generally considered to be one of the nice guys in world football.
The loss to Inter in Milan was the heaviest defeat for Sampdoria in 2020/21 but the most disappointing thing for Blucerchiati supporters was that they failed to win a Derby della Lanterna during the campaign.
Both clashes in Serie A ended in 1-1 draws but the Grifone eliminated Samp from the Coppa Italia with a 3-1 victory in the fourth round. Verre opened the scoring in the first half for Samp, but Il Vecchio Balordo turned it around in the second half thanks to a Gianluca Scamacca double and a Lukas Lerager finish.