Sampdoria were Serie A’s surprise package team in the early part of the season. However, since the end of January, things have begun to come undone for the Ligurian side
Winless in their last five matches in all competitions, Sampdoria are preparing to face their city rivals Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna this weekend. The Blucerchiati won the first encounter last September thanks to a Manolo Gabbiadini free-kick.
But right now based on form, Sampdoria are the side that are fading as they currently sit in seventh in Serie A. Meanwhile Genoa are surging as the Rossoblu are just ahead of Sampdoria on goal difference and beaming with confidence following their 5-2 win at Hellas Verona last weekend.
Sampdoria’s current form can be attributed to their January mercato. Eccentric club owner and President Massimo Ferrero, whose outlandish acts have made him a pariah amongst non-Sampdoria fans, tried to make a splash with two big signings. His desire to bring in flash personnel over the gritty players he already had, has now cost the club in their fight for European qualification.
Samuel Eto’o was signed on a two-and-a-half-year deal from Everton. Financially Sampdoria were unable of making such a deal on their own, but thanks to sponsors, the former Champions League winner was inked.
Yet, since his arrival, Eto’o has done little but destabilise the team. Only days after joining the club, Eto’o walked out of training the day after a crushing 5-1 defeat to Torino. Sinisa Mihajlovic, a no nonsense coach furious with the club’s defeat, ordered two training sessions for his team.
Reports suggested Eto’o was considering ripping up his contract in aftermath of his refusal to train. However, due to already playing with Everton this season, he would have been forced to wait until the summer to sign with a new club.
Ferrero has apparently smoothed things over between Mihajlovic and Eto’o, but at what expense? Mihajlovic’s authoritarian ways seem to have been undermined by the team’s flamboyant owner.
The club’s other signing, Luis Muriel, has been more productive than his strike partner; but only just. The once rising star cost the club €15 million in January, an exorbitant sum for a player that has fought injury and weight issues in recent time.
In addition, the 23-year-old is living off of potential, as he has tallied a mere one season of double digit goals. That was 2012/13 when he notched 11 goals for Udinese and was destined to be the club’s next Alexis Sanchez.
The only positive thus far for Sampdoria has been the fact that, unlike Eto’o, Muriel found the back of the net. The striker scored in Sampdoria’s 2-1 loss to Chievo Verona last weekend.
Lost in the shuffle of new players and poor form are the two strikers that had carried Sampdoria in the early part of the season. Manolo Gabbiadini was sold to Napoli for a reported €13m. There he has improved Rafael Benitez’s side, giving the Spanish coach a new option.
Stefano Okaka, a journeyman striker who had been praised in the early part of the season for his strong play, has since drifted in and out of the side.
Okaka has only three goals this season, but his hold up play and bullying of defenders had been the key factors keeping him in Mihajlovic’s team. Compared to once promising Italian Mario Balotelli, Okaka had received a national team call-up in November for a friendly against Albania. Now it looks as though his time at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris could be up when the next mercato opens.
The derby between Sampdoria and Genoa is not known for its silky smooth football, but more for its dogged, physical play. This weekend’s derby should be no different as both teams continue to scrap for a spot in the top five of Serie A and a place in next season’s Europa League.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer writes for www.ForzaItalianFootball.com and hosts the Serie A Football Fancast.
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