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The Fall And Rise Of Sampdoria - How Mihajlovic Could Bring Back The Good Days

Monday 26th January 2015
Italian football is the home of the sleeping giant. At one time or another, Italy's biggest clubs have all had ups and downs. Some clubs have mismanaged finances, others have sold players without replacing them, and some have even fallen as sanctions for rule breaking.
Clubs who have hit both the top and bottom of calcio's precipice include Juventus, the country's most successful club with 32 Scudetto titles, who were cut down in their prime after the calciopoli match fixing scandal in 2006, Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina, Napoli and Parma.

All had their time to shine. Incidentally, Juve's has returned. But whether it was Roma's Francesco Totti and Gabriel Batistuta inspired title winners of 2001 coming after the Argentine striker lead the line in Florence, Napoli with a certain Diego Maradona as their cover star in the 1980s, or Parma and Lazio's shared benefits of Hernan Crespo, they all had some form of success before changes in fortunes. Some of the falls have been further than others, however.

Parma, Napoli and Fiorentina all lost their top flight status for a time, with the latter duo falling further into the abyss due to financial meltdown and bankruptcy. Even the might of Milan, both clubs, are struggling in no-mans-land in the league this season.

Otherwise, it's been a breakout time for Serie A recently. Every club mentioned is back in the top-flight and on the most part going strong again. Since promotion back to Serie A for Juventus, The Old Lady have returned to their rightful place at the top. Their transfer policy is somewhat similar to that of Bayern Munich in Germany, based around buying the cream of the rest of the league's crop, as Lazio and Parma well know after the transfers of Pavel Nedved, Lillian Thuram and Gianluigi Buffon just after the turn of the century.

Napoli and Fiorentina have both played Champions League football in their 'second comings', Roma have settled back into a rhythm under Rudi Garcia and Lazio have found themselves looking up at the elite this season, much to some people's surprise.

Another team whose rise from the ashes has not been quite as well documented in recent times is Sampdoria. Serving as yet more evidence for calcio's strength in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Samp seemed a rather fashionable club in their time. Big names like Gianluca Pegiluca and their famous strike partnership of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli stepped out in the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley against none other than Johan Cruyff's Barcelona 'Dream Team', just a year after winning their one Scudetto title and three years after their defeat to the Blaugrana in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, which they would go onto win 12 months later. A Ronald Koeman free kick ensured the result was repeated.

The likes of Argentine pair Juan Veron and Ariel Ortega and midfielders Clarence Seedorf and Christian Karembeu came and went over the next few years in which Samp challenged for Europe regularly. Soon, though, in typical Serie A style, one of the great teams began to slide.

In May 2011 they were relegated to Serie B but bounced back at the first attempt through the play-offs. Two years later, after a couple of solid mid table finishes and a change of manager that saw Serbian Sinisa Mihajlovic, who played over 100 times for the club in those Europe chasing years almost 20 years earlier, replace Delio Rossi in November 2013. Talent in the form of Shkodran Mustafi, Mauro Icardi, Andrea Poli and Simone Zaza came and went much like the glory years. Familiar patterns are emerging.

In the second half of Mihajlovic's first full season, Samp have gone from strength to strength, rivalling the very best at the top and currently sitting in fourth place, level on points with Lazio in the final Champions League spot. Understandably, given their rapid rise, it is not expected to go any further than a challenge.

Two extremely talented but baggage carrying strikers have arrived to add to aid their push, in the form of Samuel Eto'o and Luis Muriel. Now 33, former Inter striker Eto'o is a shadow of the player that lit up the San Siro, having never recovered from the loss of competition at the highest level with Anzhi Makhachkala and struggled to make an impact at Chelsea and Everton. He may have lost a yard of pace, but his footballing brain is and has always been clear to see. Calcio's slower pace will fit him perfectly and, like Muriel, a Colombian who failed to reach his full potential at Udinese, he may be exactly what Samp need to hit their heights. Title challengers they may never be, but foundations could yet be laid.

A 1-1 draw this weekend against a team also looking to rekindle success of times gone by, Palermo, looks to be a missed opportunity. The longer Sampdoria keep the pace, though, the more hopes will grow of another of Italian football's history boys hitting the big time again, and Eto'o and Muriel will only keep that flame burning.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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