The new season brought with it a wave of optimism for Sampdoria. They had finished fourth in the league and secured a place in the Champions League preliminaries, replaced outgoing Coach Luigi Del Neri with the up and coming Domenico Di Carlo – they had even managed to hold on to their star players, Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini.
The Champions League bubble was quickly burst. Drawn against strong opposition in the shape of Werder Bremen the Blucerchiati were unable to overcome the German side and fell at the first hurdle, dropping into the Europa League. While at the time this looked like a small setback that would ultimately have little effect on the side, it turned out to be the first in a seemingly never ending line of disappointments.
Despite good early season form including wins over Lazio and Fiorentina and draws with both Milan clubs, things were slowly falling apart for Sampdoria. In October, a training ground incident saw star striker Cassano publicly insult club President Riccardo Garrone. Cassano was immediately suspended from first team duty and, despite a number of pleas for forgiveness from the player, the club put in a request for his contract to be rescinded. The request was rejected, but Cassano’s time in Genoa was up and the forward moved to Milan at the start of the winter transfer window.
Soon after Cassano’s departure, Pazzini was also out of the door, joining Internazionale with Jonathan Biabiany moving in the other direction. Sampdoria tried to replace the pair, bringing in Massimo Maccarone and Federico Macheda to support Biabiany and Nicola Pozzi in the attacking department. None of the replacements could fill the shoes of Cassano and Pazzini, however, and despite managing to stay strong defensively, Di Carlo’s side were impotent in front of goal.
Di Carlo’s time in charge at Sampdoria came to an abrupt end in March when he was sacked following a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Cesena. Alberto Cavasin was the man brought in to save the Blucerchiati from the drop but he was unable to stop the club plummeting down the table. The return from injury of Nicola Pozzi went some way to boosting the side and a late fightback to claim a 3-3 draw with fellow relegation strugglers Brescia offered a glimmer of hope, but it was to be short lived.
Two weeks in a row Sampdoria fell to late winners, first in the derby with Genoa when Mauro Boselli struck six minutes into injury time and then against Palermo when Maurico Pinilla was on target to seal Samp’s fate. Angelo Palombo’s reaction to his side’s relegation said a great deal about the mood at the Marassi. The captain was clearly distraught and unable to hold back tears as he apologised to each section of the stadium separately. The final day 3-1 defeat to Roma was a fitting way to end the season. Sampdoria started well and took an early lead but, in the end, came undone and left their fans bitterly, bitterly disappointed.
Coach – Domenico Di Carlo/Alberto Cavasin: Di Carlo took over at Sampdoria as an up-and-coming young tactician and lasted less than a year. A relatively comfortable campaign gave way to a relegation following the sales of Cassano and Pazzini, neither of which he had any say in. Brought in to replace him, Cavasin was unable to galvanize a demoralised squad and is unlikely to be retained next season.
Player of the Season – Angelo Palombo: The captain is one of the few players at Sampdoria who can emerge from this season’s farcical campaign with his head held high. His all-action style stood out in a team that appeared to have given up and the way he conducted himself when relegation showed his class. If Samp can keep hold of him, a huge asset next season.
Turning Point – January Transfer Window: Sampdoria went into the January window with one of the best strike partnerships in the league and lost both players over the course of the month. Without Cassano and Pazzini the side consistently drew a blank in front of goal and, despite a relatively strong defence, could not shoot their way out of their relegation fight.
Average starting XI: