After Mikkel Damsgaard’s impressive performances at UEFA Euro 2020 and so many rumours about his future, Sampdoria find themselves at a crossroad, writes Stephen Kasiewicz.
Cash in now or hold out for another year and potentially more money? Sampdoria President Massimo Ferrero would most likely be thrilled either way but the Damsgaard dilemma is one that will pain the long-suffering Blucerchiati tifosi.
Precocious Danish midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard was a familiar name to anyone who followed Serie A prior to EURO 2020. Given an unexpectedly prominent role for the Danes at the tournament, he emerged as one of its young stars.
The 21-year-old announced himself on the international stage with a spectacular long-range curler as Russia were dismissed in the group stages. A technically brilliant free-kick in the semi-final against England added to his burgeoning reputation. Now it appears every club in Europe wants him. The preposterous feeding frenzy of the Mercato is already a whirlwind of circling sharks with deep pockets.
Ferrero brazenly declared that he values the young Dane at a minimum of €40m and Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United, West Ham United, Juventus and Milan have all been linked with the attacking midfielder. Whether any of the links are credible or have any foundation has yet to be determined but Damsgaard is undoubtedly a player in demand.
Ostentatious and outspoken even compared to the great pantheon of flashy Italian club owners and presidents past and present, Ferrero also stated his prize asset is not for sale.
A film producer and self-confessed Roma fan with an ego of movie star idol proportions, it is almost impossible to know if there is any substance in his many outbursts. Is it all for show or does he have any kind of long-term plan for Sampdoria?
The wildly ambitious target of avoiding relegation next term suggests not. If survival is the aim then why hire Roberto D’Aversa, a coach that failed to prevent Parma from dropping into Serie B?
It’s as if Ferrero treats Samp as a personal vanity project, the cult of personality overriding any logic or strategic thinking. Already unpopular among the vast majority of the Blucerchiati supporters after failing to sell to a consortium led by club legend Gianluca Vialli, the somewhat inevitable sale of Damsgaard would represent another crushing low.
As one of the ultimate selling clubs, there is a lengthy, depressing list of players who have used Sampdoria as a stepping stone instead of a permanent home.
The departure door is always wide open and Patrick Schick, Bruno Fernandes, Joachim Andersen, Dennis Praet and Lucas Torreira are just a handful of the recognisable names that have left in the last decade alone.
While some stayed longer than others it was clear the Luigi Ferraris Stadium was just a temporary residence. It’s almost like an open auction with everyone available for the right buyer. Naturally, Samp must work within financial limitations and restricted budgets but turning the club into an always accessible market seems reckless and ridiculous.
Regardless of the fee received, the sale of Damsgaard would net a hefty profit. Bought for €6.5m from Danish Superliga club Nordsjælland last February (although he officially joined the club in July 2020), it was a risky move with no definite reward. The skilful young Dane was used sparingly by coach Claudio Ranieri in his first Serie A season. Although there were brief streaks of the acceleration, spatial awareness and shooting accuracy that he displayed at the Euros there was no guarantee he would adapt to the varied tactical and technical rigours of Italian football.
As part of a Scandivanian recruitment drive which also brought Norwegian midfielder Morten Thorsby, a player also linked away with Napoli, Atalanta and Watford circling – and 20-year-old Kristoffer Askildsen, the move for Damsgaard can already be considered a success.
The task for new sporting director Daniele Faggiano is to unearth similar gems as Sampdoria approach the new campaign with a slew of players in their late 20s and 30s.
Legendary striker Fabio Quagliarella can’t be relied upon forever and at 38 is nearing the end of a wondrous career. Defensive stalwarts Lorenzo Tonelli (31) and Japanese stopper Maya Yoshida (32), along with former Italian international Antonio Candreva (34), Portuguese midfielder Adrien Silva (32) and Swedish international Albin Ekdal (32) make up the core of an ageing squad. While most of the rampant speculation has concerned the sales of Damsgaard and Thorsby, there has not been a single new addition this summer.
It’s time to resurrect a long-abandoned scouting network in South America, focusing on Argentina. Ariel Ortega, Juan Sebastian Veron and Joaquin Correa all made Sampdoria their first port of call in Europe. It must be marketed as an attractive destination for players in the Argentine Primera Division again.
More importantly, a long term plan targeting Europe must be put in place rather than the myopic sell first and think later survival master scheme.
Otherwise falling into the abyss of Serie B will become a disastrous reality.