Having lost one talisman, could losing another actually be the quickest and perhaps only way Sampdoria can improve? Adamo Digby explains.
Back in the summer life at Sampdoria was good, in fact it was the best it had been in almost twenty years. Supremely coached last season by Gigi Delneri, the side was inspired by their wonderful attacking duo of Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano who's understanding and skill began to draw comparisons to Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini. A well constructed and tactically astute team, they held off Juventus and Palermo, ruined Roma's title charge and earned their first chance of playing Champions League football since they rode the coattails of "i Gemellidel gol" all the way to the final in 1992.
Much like the title-winning goal twins one is a pure scorer, the other a tempramental magician often overlooked by the national team. Pazzini joined the Genova club in January 2009 and by the end of the season had scored fifteen goals as he settled quickly into his new surroundings. Last season the partnership with Cassano truly flourished and he netted nineteen league goals, the best tally of his career. The Bari playmaker was responsible for creating many of these, and also weighed in with nine Serie A strikes of his own.
Despite losing their coach, the club acted intelligently bringing in Mimmo Di Carlo, a man who - much like Delneri - led Chievo to respectable positions in Serie A. This was a clear signal of continuity, a chance for the team to build upon the previous seasons impressive results. With new Italy coach Cesare Prandelli embracing Cassano and making him the focal point of his new look Azzurri, the future could not have been any brighter. Even a heartbreaking extra-time loss to Werder Bremen in their Champions League qualifying playoff could not truly dent the belief that this was a team on the rise and holding onto all their important players only reinforced that opinion.
Then came the fateful incident between star player and President, with neither man having the sense to repent their part in an argument over Cassano's decision to miss an awards dinner with Riccardo Garrone. While the actions of FantAntonio were clearly wrong, ostracising him has severely damaged the club and their chances of challenging the top clubs. Even worse was the decision to pursue the matter legally in a bid to have the players contract terminated, ensuring not only would they lose their talisman but that they would also receive no money in return for their prized asset.
Garrone was not done yet however, as just last week Sporting Director Sergio Gasparin left the club, citing a clear deterioration of the working relationship between the two men. Gasparin only took up the post this summer, replacing Beppe Marotta who not only quit for Juventus, he took Fabio Paratici with him, leaving Garrone incensed as he saw the younger man as his ideal replacement.
A new man will no doubt arrive to conduct transfer dealings for the Blucerchiati, and as crazy as it seems perhaps his first move should be to sell Giampaolo Pazzini. While losing both their stars would be a blow it is perhaps the only way to rebuild the team. As can be seen in Turin at the moment, Delneri's teams are highly functional, built fundamentally on an impressive defence, not conceding many goals and deploying a system predicated on creating chances through the brilliance of one or two individuals.
Robbed of Cassano's undoubted genius, Pazzini has found chances hard to come by, leaving the team struggling for goals and lacking invention. The plan has crumbled and Garrone is always reluctant to use his own money to back any transfer activity, preferring to make the club self-sufficient. So with a need to sell before they buy, what options do they have open to them? While Angelo Palombo, Reto Ziegler and Andrea Poli are all highly sought after, none would command a fee high enough to fund a replacement for the seemingly Milan bound Cassano.
Siena's highly respected sporting director Giorgio Perinetti claims "The Bianconeri want a striker at all costs and are insisting for Pazzini, and I am convinced they will get him in January" an interesting thought which would see 'Doria able to command a high price. Juventus have a clear need for a consistent goalscorer and both Delneri and Marotta have shown faith in the former Fiorentina man. Their summer transfers showed Juve to be intent on making interesting deals and, with players like Davide Lanzafame, Momo Sissoko and Amauri known to be available, this could be a chance to add some quality while also collecting a high fee.
A new Sporting Director would be keen to make a name for himself and capitalising on the Italy forward at arguably the peak of his career, then using those funds to sign replacements could do exactly that. While this is all speculation, one thing is certain, losing Cassano and changing nothing else will see Sampdoria return to mid-table obscurity, a fate that would undoubtedly see those other quality players seek moves away from the Marassi. Sampdoria need to work quickly to secure European football and selling Giampaolo Pazzini may not be as bad an idea as it first seems.
You can follow Adamo on Twitter @Adz77 for insight into the Italian game, past and present.