P: 9th (W15 D7 L16 GF52 GA54 Pts52)
Coppa Italia: Fourth Round Team rating: 6/10 Top scorer: Fabio Quagliarella  Europe: N/A
Claudio Ranieri left the Luigi Ferraris after a stellar season and Fabio Quagliarella defied the years to reach double figures again, with a campaign of stability the result. Louis Miller recaps the Blucerchiati’s 2020-21…
Samp stay steady
“This is sport”, said Claudio Ranieri, when explaining his side’s guard of honour for Inter in May, a Serie A first. “I believe sport should be in these tiny gestures, especially for a team that won with four rounds to spare. I told [Fabio] Quagliarella and the lads it would be good to mark the occasion the way they do in England, and they immediately agreed with me. We had it at Leicester, receiving the guard of honour at Chelsea.”
It’s hardly surprising that a man who spent so long in England picked up a thing or two there and Ranieri, who announced his Sampdoria departure prior to the final game of the season, will be missed for his humility, wit and charm. But his Sampdoria side were not just in the league to make up the numbers and pay their respects.
Ranieri steadied the ship considerably since taking over from Eusebio Di Francesco in October 2019, managing to guide the Ligurian club into ninth this season, five places better off than last. A fourth-round exit to local rivals Genoa in the Coppa Italia will have left fans fuming but can’t distract from an impressive campaign overall.
The Blucerchiati usually set up in a 4-4-1-1 with Gaston Ramirez, Manolo Gabbiadini or Valerio Verre supporting captain and top goal scorer Quagliarella. The frontman was responsible for 13 of his side’s 52 goals in Serie A, while Samp leaked 54 at the other end.
The team have also outperformed both their expected goals (xG) 46.2 and their expected goals against (xGA) 56.9, according to StatsBomb. This might suggest a team performing above expectations, but with Quagliarella in the side anything is possible. He is a player renowned for being a scorer of the extraordinary, and reaching 500 Serie A games, as he did in the final fixture of the season, against Parma, is truly remarkable.
An area that Sampdoria have improved on from last season is their ability to hurt teams from out wide. Young Dane Mikkel Damsgaard caught the attention of many potential suiters after contributing two goals and four assists in his first year on the peninsula. Ex-Inter men Antonio Candreva and Keita Baldé also gave the side an added threat from the flanks, chipping in with five and seven goals respectively.
Candreva also managed eight assists, the most in the side, created 55 chances for his teammates and ended the season with a passing accuracy of 77%. He also ranked ninth in the league for key passes – 62 – and second for completed crosses with 153, figures the envy of some of the league’s bigger names.
The chemistry between Candreva and Quagliarella was evident by matchday nine, when the pair linked up impressively for both of Samp’s goals against Torino. The first came from a chipped ball to Quagliarella, who used his physicality to hold off the defender, and then returned the pass to the Roman who fired through Salvatore Sirigu’s legs.
If the first was good, then the second offered a perfect illustration of their understanding. This time Candreva turned provider. The former Lazio man picked the ball up on the spin, around 60 yards from goal, but before the winger had even received the pass Quagliarella peeled away from his man with an arched run into the box. Candreva picked his head up and brilliantly found the striker with a ball that dropped almost directly onto his foot, for him to volley in the bottom corner. In a season spent in the middle of the table, Quagliarella rolling back the years was a genuine highlight.
The coach – Claudio Ranieri
A lot of Sampdoria’s success this season can be put down to the guidance of Ranieri, and how they replace the veteran tactician is one of the most intriguing questions of the summer. Ranieri gave Samp stability when they needed it most.
Player of the Year – Fabio Quagliarella
There will be a time, in the not-too-distant future, that the 38-year-old hangs up his boots for good. Until then, all we can do is appreciate the mercurial talent. For the fifth year in a row Quagliarella has scored in double digits and once again finished the season as his team’s top goal scorer.
Defining moment – 500 not out
Fabio Quagliarella’s 500th league appearance sums up a modern-day Serie A legend. Of course, he scored. The No 27 is scoring at a rate better than most players 10 years his junior and the season-ending goal against Parma suggests he’s got another year in him, at least.
Did you know?
Samp celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 1990-91 Scudetto win this season – and Claudio Ranieri coached against the Blucherati in that campaign. His Cagliari, newly-promoted to Serie A, held Samp to two draws – 2-2 in Genoa and 0-0 in Sardinia.