Sampdoria have over-performed in Italian football this season and lie sixth at the time of writing. They’ve earned plaudits for their exciting brand of football and the young players excelling under the guidance of tactician Marco Giampaolo. Giampaolo’s superb work at the club has largely been made possible by an extremely well-run club which specializes in scouting and recruiting young players from markets where most clubs don’t look. Especially the Eastern European market has been a source of great success for Sampdoria’s recruitment team headed by Riccardo Pecini. The excellent recruitment is the key behind Sampdoria’s efficient business model and has seen them soar in their performances under Giampaolo after Pecini and sporting director Carlo Osti built a squad perfectly suited to Giampaolo’s style of play.
Like many readers might know already, the organisation of Italian clubs differ from their English counterparts. Every club is headed by a president who then has one sporting director in charge of everything on the sporting side of the club. It’s the sporting director who signs players and builds a squad as well as hire coaches. When coaches are hired, they’re given a squad to work with and their job is not to sign players, they’re supposed to coach and get results using the existing squad. In England, traditionally at least, clubs have had a manager in charge of both coaching and recruitment but this is not the case in Italy. At Sampdoria, Osti built a squad for Giampaolo to coach but what impresses is how well put together the squad was for Giampaolo’s brand of football and how well the appointment of Giampaolo matched the existing squad. It’s turned out to be a matched made in heaven and the signings since 2016 when Giampaolo was appointed have continued to be perfect for his brand of football.
The man identifying the players Osti recruits is the famous scout Riccardo Pecini. Having previously worked at several clubs including Samp, Pecini has built a reputation for identifying talent. At Fiorentina, he was the man behind the signings of Hidetoshi Nakata, Giorgio Chiellini and Fabrizio Miccoli to name a few. He then worked at Tottenham where he identified three Eastern European talents Spurs later signed; Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric. Pecini then had his first spell at Sampdoria where he signed Simone Zaza and Mauro Icardi for the Primavera team. Both would go on to impress in Italy and, in Zaza’s case, Spain. Monaco then called and Pecini went there to identify the talents of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Kylian Mbappe. In 2014, Pecini returned to Samp and has continued to use the Eastern European market in particular to find cheap, superb talents which have benefited his club both on the pitch and financially. Since his return, players like Pedro Obiang (West Ham), Joaquin Correa (Sevilla), Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli), Eder (Inter), Roberto Soriano (Villarreal), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Milan Skriniar (Inter), Luis Muriel (Sevilla) and Patrik Schick (AS Roma) has been identified and sold for profits. Last season, Sampdoria finished 11th, a decent position in Giampaolo’s first season but after losing such influential players as Skriniar, Fernandes, Schick and Muriel, Pecini have made signings which have improved the squad further and now sees them in a vastly better position.
If we look at the squad, it serves as a model of how to build a squad as it includes at least two options for every position in Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2. Emiliano Viviano is the number 1 goalkeeper but has a capable understudy in Vid Belec. At right-back, Bartosz Bereszynski has largely been preferred but the Poland international has fierce competition from Jacopo Sala. At left-back, Ivan Strinic and Nicola Murru compete for the spot. Matias Silvestre and Gianmarco Ferrari are the first choice centre-back pairing but they are covered by Vasco Regini and Danish youngster Joachim Andersen. In midfield, Lucas Torreira has been a revelation in defensive midfield and always plays, but he has an able understudy in Leonardo Capezzi. In the two wider midfield roles Dennis Praet, Karol Linetty, Edgar Barreto and Valerio Verre are very good options. The number 10 role usually belongs to the summer signing Gaston Ramirez who’s proved an inspired signing. His back-up is former Inter creator Ricardo Alvarez. Up front, the veteran Fabio Quagliarella has been majestic with 17 league goals alongside his strike partner Duvan Zapata who was brought in last summer as a replacement for Muriel. He’s hit the ground running but has sometimes been rotated with Schick’s replacement, Gianluca Caprari. The fourth striker is the 20-year-old Polish talent Dawid Kownacki, who together with Linetty, Bereszynski and Skriniar and Schick before them serves as evidence of Pecini’s knowledge of the Eastern European market. It’s a wonderfully built squad which is perfect for Giampaolo’s brand of football. No wonder they get good results.
In the summer, Lucas Torreira is likely to be the next player who’s made his name at Samp leave for a bigger club. Despite a somewhat low release clause of €25 million, it will be a tidy profit on the €1.5 million signing. In a way, that would work well to describe Sampdoria’s business model; scout well, buy cheap and sell at a high profit. It sounds a simple way to run a football club, but to continually handle changes in the squad each summer and continue to keep a strong team which can challenge in the top half of the table speaks volumes of the knowledge and competence in the people running Sampdoria at the moment. The president Massimo Ferrero must be overjoyed with his scout Pecini, his sporting director Osti and his coach Giampaolo. Together the three has built a wonderful squad which brings both excitement and results to Genoa, but in truth the whole club works as an example of how to properly run a football club.