In direct contradiction to the statement made by club President Riccardo Garrone, it seems the Sampdoria Supermarket is indeed open for business, with Juventus quickly becoming the most loyal of customers.
If repeat custom is an indication of prosperity, then the Genoa club is indeed a thriving industry. After seeing the club secure a Champions League playoff berth on Sunday, Beppe Marotta confirmed he is to join Juventus—a well-known move given that his appointment was ratified by the Turin clubs board at their CdA meeting last Monday.
The new General Director called Juventus "a stimulating challenge," confirming that despite the poor season and low league position, the allure of La Vecchia Signora remains intact, at least among the Italian football community.
He went on to add that there is "much work for me to do," which is possibly a huge understatement. What that does do is send a clear message that he understands the poor state of the squad, and that he will make the many necessary changes to bring balance, cohesion, and solidarity to a team currently lacking all three.
His task seems like it is about to become much simpler, as his coach at Sampdoria, Luigi Del Neri, looks set to follow him to his new home. Riccardo Garrone confirmed his departure yesterday following a meeting with the former Chievo and Roma coach.
The two have built a great rapport in the last season, with the astute director quickly understanding the tacticians needs and putting the pieces in place for his system to work.
Marotta is not afraid to take chances on players others would discard, and has a history filled with intelligent moves on the transfer market which others might not see. He was influential in the surprise arrival of Venezia in Serie A during the mid-to-late 1990s, with the loan deal of Alvaro Recoba from Inter a masterstroke.
From there he spent two seasons at Atalanta, who enjoyed two top half finishes, and he engineered some very profitable moves for the club, maximising their value and ensuring the clubs survival. His work with the Bergamo club secured a move to Sampdoria, then in Serie B.
Bringing in his coach from Venezia, Walter Novellino, the pair ended 'Doria's four year stay in the Cadetti at the first time of asking. Once back in the top division Sampdoria have begun to emerge as a top quality team.
Looking closely at the squad Marotta has built, obviously the acquisition of Antonio Cassano basically for free from Real Madrid stands out as a great move, but others deserve equal recognition. Giampaolo Pazzini may have cost around €9 million, but is currently one of Italy's top strikers and the price seems a steal now.
Another ex-Fiorentina player, club captain Angelo Palombo was another free transfer, adding yet more credit to the reputation of Marotta as perhaps the best "transfer guru" operating today.
Luigi Del Neri will be an interesting appointment, and is certainly far more welcome in Turin than supposed long-term target Rafael Benitez. Unlike the Spanish coach, Del Neri has adhered strictly to a 4-4-2 system and it will be interesting to see how he adapts it at what is the biggest club in his career.
Perhaps he is most famous for his time in charge of Chievo's "Flying Donkeys" who thrilled watchers of Italian football as they played an attacking brand of football, relying heavily on wingers Christian Manfredini and Eriberto to pro vide crosses for their strikers.
Prior to his arrival at Sampdoria, the club employed a 3-5-2 formation, immediately scrapped by the new coach, who adapted his tactics once more, this time ensuring a previously porous defence quickly became tough to beat, conceding only 41 times this past season.
How he adapts to Juventus, how he fits certain players into his system will be key, but with Marotta to provide the changes, Del Neri is the ideal man to make them into a real team, something Juventus has missed greatly this season. He is also a firm believer in playing players in their natural position in order to gain maximum impact, again a trait not seen during the reigns of Ferrara and Zaccheroni.
That the coach is not just a "big name" shows that there finally appears to be a plan in place at Juventus, that the quick-fix approach has been consigned to history by new President Andrea Agnelli. With the two key men signed, the real work of the summer can now begin in earnest.
Del Neri spoke to the press on Tuesday morning and his comments show him to be pragmatic, realistic and intelligent. He discussed the pride in taking on such a huge challenge, and he also showed a good insight into the club as he spoke of the need to "rebuild a mentality."
The mindset once synonymous with Juventus has vanished from Turin in recent years, and the gritty determination must return in order for the club to be successful. Juventus have always had that provincial mentality of a much smaller club, and a man who has coached those teams for most of his career may prove to be a shrewd appointment.
Del Neri also expressed his wish for Gigi Buffon to remain at the club, a must in the eyes of fans, dismayed as a player who stayed throughout the purgatory of Serie B has talked of leaving in order to achieve his goals.
If Del Neri and Marotta return the "Spirito Juve" and retain Buffon, then their era at Juventus will undoubtedly be off to a great start.
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