The glory years of Sampdoria

The vast majority of football fans like to see the underdog or small team that traditionally does not win trophies succeed. There are many of these stories, although they are becoming less frequent because now there seems to be a greater gap between the most powerful teams and the rest. This is closely related to the strong foreign investments and some flexibilities that have been given at the administrative level, such as the Bosman ruling.

Sampdoria fans
Today we bring the story of Sampdoria from the late 80s and early 90s, which had nothing to do with the current version of the club that is playing Serie B. At that time, the Genoese team was feared both at the nationally and internationally and had a team with enormous potential that brought a glorious era for a club that was not used to enjoying that type of joy in the form of trophies.

A little history

Sampdoria is a relatively young club that was born in 1946 as Unione Calcio Sampdoria, from the union of two clubs, Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. Although since its birth Samp has continued playing in Serie A (with several spells in Serie B), they would win their first important trophy in 1985 (leaving aside the Serie B won in 1967).


In the 80s, it became popular in Italy for clubs to be bought by millionaires, something that is currently very common; however, at that time, those Italian clubs were acquired by Italians who, for the most part, were fans of that team. For this reason, they made important investments for the club to grow without expecting to receive an economic profit. Paolo Mantovani was one of these cases.

Born in Rome but settled in Genoa, Mantovani began working at Genoa CFC, Sampdoria's great rival, although he would only stay for a couple of years because he felt great disappointment (like a large part of the Genoa fans) when the club sold Gigi Meroni to Torino. From there, he became press officer at Sampdoria where he would remain for a few years until he saw an opportunity in the oil sector and became a millionaire.

With his fortune made, he would return to Samp in 1979, this time as owner and president of the club, taking it to Serie B and in 3 years he had already returned them to Serie A, to begin a period of unprecedented success for the club.

Manager Boskov

Vujadin Boskov was a football player born in Yugoslavia who spent most of his career in his country's Vojvodina, along with a year at Sampdoria and another couple of years at Young Fellows Zurich. In Switzerland, he was a player-manager, starting a successful career on the bench. He would be coach of his country, he would go through the Netherlands (ADO Den Haag and Feyenoord), Spain (Zaragoza, Real Madrid and Sporting de Gijón), before arriving in Italy, first to an Ascoli that at that time was a powerful club economically, and then he would sign for Samp in 1986. In all the countries he coached, he managed to win trophies and is remembered for a phrase: "Football is football".

The team is strengthened

Mantovani's Sampdoria began to strengthen little by little, bringing in established players such as Graeme Souness or Trevor Francis but at the same time signing young players with potential thinking about forming a base for the future. This is how Luca Pellegrini arrived in 1980 from Varesse, Roberto Mancini in 1982 from Bologna or Gianluca Vialli in 1984 from Cremonese. They were all very, very young and little known but they would be very important for the club.

In the 1984-85 season, with the "Iron Sergeant", Eugenio Bersellini on the bench, the fruits of the investment began to be seen and Sampdoria would win its first important trophy in its history by beating Milan in the Coppa final. Italy. Winning that trophy, in a way, "unlocked" the club and changed the mentality of the team that now considered itself a strong contender in Italy. This is how the Coppa Italia would also arrive in 1988 and 1989, already with Boskov as coach.

In that same 1989, Sampdoria would reach the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup, against FC Barcelona, which would have a "Black Beast" role for the Genoese club in its European history. The Catalan team would win 2-0 with goals from Salinas and López Rekarte. Despite the defeat, Samp was showing itself as a threat also at the European level, however there was still a lack of success that would reaffirm the club's growth.

Between Gothenburg and Wembley

The following year, Boskov's team would once again be present in the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup, this time against Anderlecht in Gothenburg where, this time, fate would smile on them and they would win in extra time (minutes 105 and 107) with a Vialli double. Mantovani continued making strategic signings such as Toninho Cerezo, Marco Branca and Attilio Lombardo, highlighting in particular the arrival of a young goalkeeper called Gianluca Pagliuca who had managed to establish himself in the starting eleven.

Sampdoria entered the 1990-91 season as a solid, mature and dangerous team that had already been working together for several years and with a more than consolidated Boskov process. In Serie A they had a good start although a defeat against their city rivals (Genoa CFC) on matchday 10 made Boskov's team hesitate, but they managed to recover for the second half of the season where they did not lose any game, reaching to the penultimate day with the possibility of becoming Serie A champions for the first time in their history.

The rival was Lecce and the stage was Luigi Ferraris. Sampdoria would settle the match in the first 30 minutes with goals from Cerezo, Mannini and Vialli. Thus, Mantovani's club won its first Serie A, the first for a Genoese team since 1924 and the last that a club that is not from Turin, Milan or Rome has won. The goal twins, Vialli and Mancini, scored 31 goals between them, being essential in the success achieved by Samp.

The championship won allowed them to play in the European Cup (today UEFA Champions League) the following season. In the qualifying round they comfortably eliminated the Norwegian team Rosenborg and in the group stage they beat Red Star Belgrade, Anderlecht and Panathinaikos. At that time, the competition consisted of a group stage of 2 groups and each leader qualified for the final. In that final, Cruyff's FC Barcelona, the famous Dream Team, was waiting for them again.

At that time, the Catalan team had not won the European Cup and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. The final was played at Wembley and was an extremely close match, to the point that no goals were scored in the regular 90 minutes. However, in the 112th minute, that famous free kick by Ronald Koeman surpassed Pagliuca and gave Barcelona its first European Cup and at the same time, marked the end of a Sampdoria team that lived its best historical period.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.