Organised Sampdoria shining under manager Marco Giampaoloby Chloe Beresford / 27 September 2017, 11:29Tweet
It was fairly safe to say that Milan CEO Marco Fassone was not happy after his side lost 2-0 to Sampdoria last weekend. His post-match comments made it abundantly clear that the ¤230 million spent by the club this summer meant defeat was not acceptable, the pressure to secure a Champions League finish vital to satisfying the unusual business model of their new Chinese owners.
“I don’t know whether it’s a question of playing against a good team,” Fassone fumed after the match. “I don’t think Samp are at our level, [Coach Marco] Giampaolo has done very well. I congratulate him, but Milan are stronger than Samp and need to approach the match in a different way.”
His words were typical of a man who sees football purely from a business angle. He acknowledged the excellent work done by Giampaolo over the last two seasons only to instantly dismiss the fact he has forged a well-organised and united side, something that his counterpart Vincenzo Montella was somehow expected to replicate immediately at Milan.
The summer window couldn’t have been much different for the two sides and - whilst Montella had to figure out how to assemble a team based on so many new players - Giampaolo had to puzzle over how his own side would face the new campaign after so many key losses.
Striker Luis Muriel left for Sevilla in a ¤20 million move, whilst Roma won the race for highly sought-after Czech international Patrik Schick. Milan Skriniar also joined Inter for ¤23m, and midfielder Bruno Fernandes went back to his native Portugal, signing for Sporting.
Departed striking duo Muriel and Schick scored 22 goals between them last term, but Giampaolo has not been feeling sorry for himself. In fact it has been quite the opposite. The Blucerchiati are unbeaten in the current campaign, securing three wins and two draws in their opening five matches.
“I am looking for improvements, but we are often written off,” he said after the victory over Milan, not content to rest on his laurels. “Today, for 90 minutes, the team were extraordinary. The support helps, the fans were pushing for it. Enthusiasm takes you to greater limits. It was a great performance by the boys.”
All this talk of Napoli playing the best football in the league. Yes, but Sampdoria has been 2nd the entire time this season.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) September 24, 2017
The 50-year-old may not be a household name, but Empoli fans will not be surprised by his success in Liguria. After a lack of success at sides such as Catania, Brescia, Cesena and Cremonese, the Swiss-born Coach was given the unenviable task of replacing Maurizio Sarri for the 2015/16 season. A 15th-placed finish for the Tuscan side was enough to secure the high-profile appointment for Sarri, but Giampaolo incredibly pushed the side even further.
That year Empoli punched well above their weight, finishing 10th in the league and - after the Coach moved on to Sampdoria the very next season - they then slumped to relegation after he had left. “I was at a club and in an environment where the philosophy was very similar to mine,” Giampaolo told Sport360 in an interview last year. “I worked with a squad full of technical players like Mario Rui, Leandro Paredes and Piotr Zielinski, who now play for big clubs, and that period remains one of the most unforgettable and exciting of my entire career.”
Of course such success has inevitably attracted interest from bigger clubs, with the boss even linked to Milan before the San Siro outfit eventually opted for Montella. However, he remains a man who is wedded to the project at Samp, and it seems that his greatest successes will be found where he has belief in what he is doing.
“If players are with you, nothing else matters,” he continued. “We had some bad results but our performances were good and we have never lost sight of our aim of playing football as we know how.”
Playing football the way he knows how has created an incredible spirit at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, and not even the loss of key players has not deterred him from carrying out his principled approach. No matter how much the game is modernised, clubs like Milan would be well advised to take a look at the way Sampdoria play and realise there are some things that money simply can’t buy.