Not every club has winning titles as their objective. While we’ve had Serie A’s version of the Leicester City miracle in the 1980s when Hellas Verona improbably won a scudetto during peak Calcio years no less, for provinciali types the goal is avoid relegation with no drama, develop players and sell them for a profit before you start the cycle all over again.
There are times where a few successful years of this formula will lead you to raising the bar for yourself, as an example it wasn’t long ago that Udinese was seen as the model for every provinciale since they were starting to look like frequent contenders for a Champions League spot. But with the Pozzo family showing more interest in Watford, Udinese has taken a significant step back in recent years leaving the door open for other clubs to take the mantle as the place to develop talents for huge profits while contending for a place in Europe.
The best recent examples are Atalanta and Sampdoria, but while the Bergamaschi are currently better equipped to compete for a top six finish, we could see Ferrero’s club take the next step soon since their former players tend to succeed on their new club. Could rich clubs now have doubts when they are asked for a huge sum for an Atalanta jewel? Let’s take a look at recent history
Significant sales: Milan Skriniar, Patrik Schick, Lucas Torreira, Luis Muriel, Bruno Fernandes, Joaquin Correa
In recent years Sampdoria have developed a great scouting network which has allowed them to discover numerous gems in both Italy and abroad. Lucas Torreira was an underachieving striker at Pescara while Bruno Fernandes had significant experience in Serie A despite his young age playing for Udinese, both arrived in Genova where they took the next step in their development- Torreira has now established himself at Arsenal while last season Bruno Fernandes won the award for the player of the year in Portugal.
On the flip side we’ve had Roberto Soriano and Joquin Correa return to Serie A after a spell in Spain, it’s not out of the question we see another former Sampdoria player in Luis Muriel follow the same path at some point in 2019.
While Patrik Schick has been a bust at Roma, there’s still a chance he regains his form elsewhere since playing for the giallorossi can subject anyone to a lot of pressure, nevermind the most expensive transfer in club history. Milan Skriniar on the other hand has become one of the most sought after defenders in all of Europe with his performances at Inter.
Current jewels: Joachim Andersen, Dennis Praet, Ronaldo Vieira, Nicola Murru
Manager Marco Giampaolo succeeded Sarri at Empoli and you can certainly see why when you watch his Sampdoria. We see a lot of the same tight lines on defense and short passing in the midfield as Sarri’s teams, so while it may take some time for players to get comfortable in the system once they do they are ready for a leap- this is why many expect Joachim Andersen to potentially follow in Skriniar’s path and for Dennia Praet to be an important part of a top team’s midfield in the foreseeable future. While Ronaldo Vieira is being eased in slowly, he’s already showing flashes of a star in the making.
Significant Sales: Roberto Gagliardini, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Mattia Caldara, Bryan Cristante, Martin de Roon
While it would be harsh to consider Conti and Caldara busts because of their injuries, there’s a growing concern that Atalanta players often look better within Gasperini’s system than when they join a bigger club. After a great start at Inter where he was pegged as a future starter in Italy’s midfield, Roberto Gagliardini has taken a step back and looks like more of a valuable backup on a title contender than a building block.
Franck Kessie has been a very reliable player for Milan, he has played through injuries and has brought some much needed muscle to the midfield. While he may not have as much upside as his new teammate Bakayoko’, there’s no doubt that Kessie’ was one of the best acquisitions of the Mirabelli-Fassone regime.
Roma probably wishes they had closed the deal for Kessie’ the year before than Bryan Cristante last summer, while they do not play the same role, Kessie’ would have been a much better fit playing alongside Zaniolo, Pellegrini and Pastore. Cristante has played better recently but it’s hard to envision him living up to his lofty price tag, especially when you consider how important it is for Roma to hit on all their big purchases.
Current Jewels: Papu Gomez, Gianluca Mancini, Robin Gosens, Hans Hateboer, Remo Freuler, Duvan Zapata, Musa Barrow
The current Atalanta has a nice mix of veterans (Papu Gomez, Josip Ilicic), players in their prime (Zapata, Toloi) and exciting prospects (Mancini, Barrow) to both compete now and develop a jewel to cash in on in the future. Gosens and Hateboer are above average wingbacks, a position that has been scarce on the transfer market while Remo Freuler is already being linked to top Serie A teams for the January window.
But it remains to be seen if other clubs are starting to be concerned that they’ll end up stuck with some Gasperini “fool’s gold” by spending significantly on their players. At this moment shopping with Sampdoria seems to be a better bet.
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