Sampdoria succumb to the inevitable and worse may be to come
Getty: Simone Arveda

On Monday evening the inevitable happened: Sampdoria, former Serie A and European Cup winners, were relegated. It had been a long time coming but the 2-0 loss away to Udinese sealed the Ligurian club’s drop down to the second division.

Samp have been here before. They were last in Serie B in the 2011/12 season and experienced a four-year spell there in the early 2000s, though, apart from that, it has been top-flight football since 1982. However, this time it feels different. And it is.

This has been a season to forget for the Blucerchiati, they have failed to get going. Head coach Marco Giampaolo oversaw a winless start to the campaign and since Dejan Stankovic, the former Lazio and Inter Milan midfielder, arrived in October, Sampdoria have managed just three league victories. A -41 goal difference shows the extent of their troubles with goals and points proving elusive.

What makes relegation even tougher to take for La Samp is that they will cross paths with city rivals Genoa on the way down as they have won promotion after their sole season in Serie B.

Supporters have stuck with the Sampdoria playing squad, which includes Harry Winks on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, throughout the troublesome season. Even when faced with limited fair from a team lacking confidence and quality, they gave them their backing, travelling the length and breadth of the Italian peninsula in hope of seeing a rare triumph.

Getty: Simone Arveda

Such support does not extend to the owner and board of directors, however, and it is easy to understand why. Sampdoria only narrowly avoided a points penalty for unpaid wages in February when players agreed a last-minute deal to forego what they were owed for December. Yet, this was only a temporary reprieve.

A negotiated settlement with the courts granted them 120 days to either repay or find agreement on restructuring of €200m in outstanding debts. The window expires on 6 June, two days after the end of the season. If no solutions are found by then, creditors can force them into bankruptcy and make them start again from Serie D.

Now we have the most important match, the decisive one,” the club’s vice-president, Antonio Romei, said.

I speak on behalf of the entire Board of Directors, we are working hard to find a solution and will do everything possible because Sampdoria deserve to keep going. The next few days will be very important.

“Sampdoria are part of calcio heritage and cannot start again from lower than Serie B. We have a sustainable restructuring programme that has been examined by the financial advisors, so perhaps the news that has been circulating is a bit too alarming.

“We have a clear idea of the situation, now we are trying to get it done as soon as possible.”

Getty: Simone Arveda

However, chances of a positive resolution appear slim while Sampdoria’s boardroom is gripped by an internal power struggle.

Infighting and unpaid debts could prove costly

They are still owned by Massimo Ferrero, who was forced to step down as President after he was arrested for fraudulent bankruptcy and financial irregularities of his other business interests. Ferrero has rejected at least one offer from American investors Merlyn to buy the Italian club and maintains he can keep the Blucerchiati afloat.

The former defender Marco Lanna has served as club president since December 2021 but Ferrero remains Sampdoria’s majority shareholder, and a court-imposed ban on him holding a director’s position expired at the end of last year.

Ferrero has attacked Lanna in interviews, calling him “the worst president in the history of the club”, but fans have protested against his potential return, with some writing to the sport’s governing bodies asking them to intervene.

Even before he stood down there were plenty who had taken against a man who first rose to prominence as a filmmaker and who some perceived as more interested in his own celebrity than their club’s success.

The story has taken some extremely dark turns. At the start of the year, a pig’s head was delivered to the club’s headquarters, with a note threatening Ferrero and Romei which read: “The next heads will be yours”. Prior to that, a bullet had been sent addressed to Ferrero and Edoardo Garrone, the previous owner.

Against such a backdrop Stankovic and his players tried to stay focused and deliver their best shot at survival but you could hardly blame anyone for struggling to deliver their best given the circumstances.

Getty: Simone Arveda

I feel enormous disappointment and sadness. We tried and we gave everything we had,” Stankovic told DAZN when relegation was confirmed.

I know that every fan does not want to accept this day, but we fought on the field and they were by our side always. This club deserves more, because it is beautiful inside and out. I hope this situation can be resolved in the best possible way.”

It is a sorry situation for the club which won Serie A in 1991 and the European Cup a year later, but the signs had been there both on and off the pitch. Sampdoria had only finished higher than ninth position in one of their last 11 top-flight seasons and the spectre of relegation had loomed even before this dire campaign and boardroom battle had played out.

The next few weeks may prove to be just as hard for supporters to bear as recent months. Sampdoria have succumbed to the inevitable and the worse may yet be to come.