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    15 November 2023

    Can Sampdoria and Andrea Pirlo make a comeback from adversity?

    Sampdoria: A Journey from Glory to Turmoil

    A Prominent Past

    Over 30 years ago, Sampdoria stood tall among Europe’s elite football clubs. Led by the formidable duo of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini, they clinched a Serie A title and triumphed in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Although they suffered defeat in a European Cup final against Barcelona at Wembley, their presence on the big stage was undeniable.

    The Current Struggles

    However, life has taken a drastic turn for I Blucerchiati (The Blue-Circled), as they find themselves grappling with significant challenges. Following their relegation to Italy’s second tier last season and under the guidance of Italian legend Andrea Pirlo as manager, Sampdoria is now closer to facing another demotion than making a triumphant comeback.

    New Ownership, New Hope?

    In light of years of mismanagement that pushed the club towards bankruptcy, new owners Andrea Radrizzani and Matteo Manfredi aim to restore Sampdoria to its former glory and bring back the joy reminiscent of their successful stint in the 90s. Can this ambitious mission be accomplished?

    Turbulence Amidst Ambitions

    A banner reading ‘From hell we shall return’ adorned Sampdoria’s final Serie A home game last May. However, it has been far from smooth sailing for them over recent years. These turbulent times witnessed alarming incidents such as severed pig’s heads being sent to previous owners along with bullet cases – acts that left many perplexed.

    A Season to Forget

    The 2022-23 season proved to be one marred by disappointment for Sampdoria. The tragic loss of club legend Gianluca Vialli at the age of 58 was followed by their heartbreaking relegation after enjoying 11 consecutive years in the top flight.

    The Genesis of Troubles

    To understand the origins of Sampdoria’s decline, a brief historical detour is necessary. The club, known as Sampd’Oro or the ‘golden team,’ achieved tremendous success during the 1980s and 90s under the ownership of the Mantovani family – oil tycoons who also claimed four Coppa Italias and an Italian Supercup.

    A Handover That Raised Questions

    However, on June 12th, 2014, Edoardo Mantovani decided to relinquish control over Sampdoria for a mere symbolic sum of one euro. This transfer saw film producer Massimo Ferrero assume ownership while receiving an additional injection of funds amounting to €65 million from Mantovani himself. Many were puzzled as to why one of Italy’s wealthiest families would give away their cherished possession along with financial aid to an inexperienced businessman lacking personal assets.

    Ferrero’s Challenging Tenure

    During his tenure as owner, Ferrero seemed more like a puppet controlled by Riccardo Garrone rather than acting independently. Operating without substantial personal wealth, Ferrero resorted solely to generating profits through player transfers in order to sustain the club financially.

    A Model That Cracked Under Pressure

    Sampdoria managed to stay afloat by selling key players such as Lucas Torreira (to Arsenal), Patrik Schick (to Roma), and Milan Skriniar (to Inter Milan). The profits from these transfers breathed temporary life into the club. However, this model eventually crumbled in 2019 when a group of international investors led by Gianluca Vialli failed to acquire Sampdoria despite offering around €85-90 million for a complete takeover.

    The Pandemic’s Final Blow

    As if the challenges weren’t already overwhelming, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a final blow to Sampdoria. With no transfer market activity and subsequent profit generation, running the club became an increasingly uphill battle. This culmination of events ultimately led to Massimo Ferrero’s arrest on December 6th, 2021, due to fraudulent bankruptcy charges unrelated to football activities.

    A Period of Turmoil

    In the following months, Ferrero faced numerous threats as he was released from prison but banned from any involvement in football affairs. Sit-in protests staged by fans took place on the streets while matches were disrupted by ultras hurling flares onto the pitch. Envelopes containing bullet cases were sent not only to Ferrero but also his predecessor Garrone. The situation reached its nadir with an unsettling incident involving a severed pig’s head…

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