Stephen Kasiewicz explains where Harry Winks will fit in at Sampdoria following a ‘courageous decision’ to leave his comfort zone at Tottenham.
The prevalence of the flag of St George across Genoa will be a reassuring sight for new Sampdoria midfielder Harry Winks.
The red cross on the white background has been a symbol of the port city for centuries, welcoming visitors from across the world, including a host of English players at the Blucerchiati.
Yet will the on-loan Tottenham Hotspur midfielder make the same impact as compatriots Trevor Francis and David Platt at Marassi?
So far down the pecking order at Spurs that he was banished from the first-team squad and told to train on his own by coach Antonio Conte, the 26-year-old made the courageous decision to leave his comfort zone in London for a fresh start at Samp in Serie A.
It’s a gamble for both club and player and surely one of the most unexpected moves – along with Samuel Umtiti’s incredible switch from Barcelona to Lecce – of an unpredictable transfer window.
Winks is clearly not the same player who former Tottenham tactician Mauricio Pochettino believed was in the same class as Barcelona icons Andrés Iniesta and Xavi.
The comparison seemed extravagant four years ago and the Spurs academy graduate has failed to fulfil the potential which earned him 10 England caps.
Winks became used to a demoralizing routine of watching from the bench in the last two campaigns at Spurs as Conte completely reshaped his midfield with new recruits, including Rodrigo Bentancur and Yves Bissouma.
He is likely to have more opportunities in the centre of the field under Marco Giampaolo, albeit in a team which has laboured to claim just two points and only one goal in the opening four games of the new campaign.
Where he fits into the starting line-up is another matter entirely. Samp’s midfield has possessed all the energy and urgency of a creep of tortoises in large segments of games this term.
It’s debatable whether Winks can provide the impetus and change of pace required to fuel a recharged block in the middle of Giampaolo’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.
Although with his impressive passing range he should be a viable alternative to the underwhelming Ronaldo Vieira and slowing veteran Tomás Rincón.
Winks arrives in a transitional season as the club continues to seek new ownership and has the unambitious aim of preserving their place in Serie A.
Yet it also offers the skilled midfielder a chance to rejuvenate his career in one of the most demanding leagues in Europe.
Fellow countrymen Fiyako Tomori (Milan) and Tammy Abraham (Roma) have reinvented themselves in Italy and played their way back into Gareth Southgate’s England squad at the same time.
The duo helped alter lazy perceptions about the Italian top flight among myopic pundits who dismissed the Italian top division as a step down from the never-ending money pit of the English Premier League.
Winks follows a route taken by some of the most recognisable names in English and British football.
Striker Francis – once labelled as the best Englishman to have played in Italy by former Milan coach Fabio Capello – spent four largely successful years at Samp in the 1980s and was part of the team which won a historic Coppa Italia in 1985 along with formidable Scottish international Graeme Souness. Skilful Irish midfielder Liam Brady also teamed up with Francis for two terms in the early 1980s.
England international centre-back Des Walker spent just a year at Samp; a frustrating 1992-1993 campaign in which he was often deployed out of position by coach Sven-Göran Eriksson.
While goalscoring midfielder David Platt, who went on to briefly coach the club, had a far more memorable two seasons with the Blucerchiati. The dynamic England star claimed the Coppa Italia as part of a star-laden side which contained Attilio Lombardo, Ruud Gullit and Roberto Mancini in 1994.
A pair of bizarre signings didn’t work out quite as well.
Lee Sharpe and Danny Dichio barely had enough time to sample Pesto Genovese or enjoy the spectacular views of the Ligurian coastline before leaving Sampdoria.
Dichio arrived from Queens Park Rangers and failed to make a single league appearance, playing a paltry 20 minutes in a UEFA Cup tie against Athletic Bilbao in September 1997.
Former Manchester United winger Sharpe was recruited by Platt but featured in just three games in an instantly forgettable spell in 1999.
Winks, who joins former England under-21 cap Vieira in the Doria squad, will no doubt strive to make sure he is remembered for all the right reasons at Marassi.