After witnessing the performances decline the second half of the Serie A season, Italian club Sampdoria should be active when the 2018 summer transfer window opens.
The Genoese club was in contention for Europa League spot in the early stages of the 2017/18 campaign and the Doriani played some splendid football but the lack of depth in the squad became evident as the season progressed and that resulted in Samp finishing 10th on the league table. Coach Marco Giampaolo has decided to remain at Sampdoria and a revolution of the squad seems inevitable in order to construct a team capable of making the former Empoli tactician’s philosophy succeed.
Reshaping the defence looks high on the agenda for the Blucerchiati, who conceded 60 goals in 38 Serie A matches in 2017/18. Although the back line in general demonstrated vulnerabilities, the full-back roles in particular were often a concern in both the attacking and defensive phases of the game.
Ball-playing centre-back Joachim Andersen should remain at the club for next season but the majority of the other Samp defenders are likely to play elsewhere. Croatian left-back Ivan Strinić has joined Milan on a free transfer after one season at the Ligurian club, and Gian Marco Ferrari will not be signed outright from Sassuolo, with his namesake Alex Ferrari close to joining from Bologna. Goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano is expected to leave Sampdoria after four seasons and Lukasz Skorupski from Roma as well as Marco Sportiello from Atalanta are two candidates expected to replace the 32-year-old.
Viviano battled with fitness and form issues early in the season, and according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he is set to join newly-promoted Parma on a three-year deal worth €750,000 per season. The Italian newspaper has also reported that veteran centre-back Matias Silvestre will probably join the Ducali as well on a two-year contract with an option for another season. There is the possibility of Jacopo Sala and Vasco Regini joining Parma as well but the latter has also attracted interest from Chievo and Cagliari. Both full-backs have had trouble adapting to Giampaolo’s system so moving elsewhere could the catalyst for them to gain some form and confidence.
Despite having no more than a solid campaign with Sampdoria, Polish right-back Bartosz Bereszynski has surprisingly attracted the interest of Napoli and Inter and he will represent Poland at the World Cup so some impressive performances in Russia could increase his value on the transfer market. With this probable mass exodus of defenders, Il Doria will be acquiring Gambian defender Omar Colley form Belgian club Genk for €7.75 million plus €2 million in bonuses. The 25-year-old is reportedly going to earn €800,000 per season on a three-year contract and he has been compared to former Genk and current Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. Mattia Bani from Chievo is another centre-back that could join the club.
When discussing the current Sampdoria squad and midfielders, the first player that springs to mind is Lucas Torreira. The diminutive Uruguayan defensive midfielder has been a revelation for the Doriani for the last two seasons but he has a low buyout clause of just €25 million, which English club Arsenal might capitalise on because Napoli are reportedly not willing to meet his wage demands of €3 million per season.
Former Crotone midfielder Leonardo Capezzi is a ready-made replacement for Torreira but Sampdoria are reportedly looking for other options in that role such as Sandro Tonali from Brescia, Federico Viviani from Hellas Verona, Rolando Mandragora from Juventus, and Stefano Sensi from Sassuolo.
Tonali has been compared to Italian great Andrea Pirlo due to his beginnings with the Rondinelle, his position, and hairstyle but they want at least €20 million for the 18-year-old. The Viviani rumours have dissipated, Mandragora could return to Genoa or go loan to Atalanta, but Sensi’s buyout clause of €5 million might be of appeal to Samp.
Another midfielder that could leave the Blucerchiati is Dennis Praet, who has been linked with Juventus, Arsenal, and Newcastle United. Il Doria sporting director Carlo Osti recently said in a television interview on RAI that any club interested in the Belgian international will have to pay at least €26 million.
In preparation for the Belgian’s departure, Samp will sign Kosovo international Valon Berisha from Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg for €7 million plus €1 million in bonuses. The 25-year-old was fundamental in Salzburg’s run to the Europa League semi-finals, scoring five goals in 13 games.
The attacking midfielder role is a fundamental part of Giampaolo’s system working but it is also a position in which a clear standout has not been able to make it his own. After Bruno Fernandes was sold to Sporting CP in the summer of 2017, Gaston Ramirez from Middlesbrough took his place and started the season well, providing 10 assists in 20 Serie A matches but then he failed to contribute to anymore for the remainder of the season. Ricky Alvarez and Gianluca Caprari also played in the trequartista but they were not able to cement a regular spot in the team.
Thirty-year-old Alvarez could make a return to former club Velez Sarsfield or he could sign for Mexican club Atlas while Croatian starlet Lovro Majer from Lokomotiva Zagreb is close to taking his place. The 20-year-old is expected to join for €7 million and rumours suggest that he will be given the number 10 jersey right away.
Although the attack is not expected to be revolutionised as much as other parts of the squad, Colombian striker Duvan Zapata could still leave after just one season. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he has been linked with Spanish and German clubs as well as Serie A rivals Atalanta and Il Doria value him at €25 million.
There is the possibility of Inter forward Eder returning Sampdoria in the same vein Fabio Quagliarella did but he is also player of interest for Serie A rivals Cagliari. The aforementioned Quagliarella has been linked with Inter and Udinese but Blucerchiati president Massimo Ferrero does not want to let the talismanic striker and captain depart from the Genoese club. In addition to Eder being linked with a return, so has Italian international Simone Zaza. The 26-year-old scored 13 goals in 33 La Liga matches for Valencia in 2017/18 but he could make a return to his native country. Although Samp are one of the clubs linked with him, it might not be a transfer well received by the Blucerchiati supporters.
After returning from a successful loan spell at Serie B club Ascoli in 2012/13, Zaza demanded a more lucrative contract but Sampdoria president Edoardo Garrone refused to give him one and the young centre-forward was perceived to be greedy.
He then went to Sassuolo and the Blucerchiati fans still remembered his departure when he played for Juventus against Samp in 2015/16. The Bianconeri won 2-1 in Genoa but the home supporters applauded centre-back Niklas Moisander for cynically fouling Zaza in the dying minutes of the match even though he earned himself a red card.
Another rumour resurfacing is that of Azzurri striker Mario Balotelli potentially joining Il Doria after two seasons with French club Nice. The enigmatic attacker has admirers in France as well as in Italy and Carlo Osti did not rule out acquiring the 27-year-old. Despite the summer transfer window not being open officially, Sampdoria is planning to make shrewd transfer deals already and the team is likely to be transformed once again.
The Genoese club do have a reputation for purchasing players for low transfer fees and selling for huge profits, the Doriani squad for 2018/19 is likely to built around the typical policy under Ferrero and also be capable of making a serious push for Europe.
By: Vito Doria
Photo: Paolo Rattini