Argentinian teenager Mauro Icardi announced his arrival on the Serie A stage with a stunning brace to sink league leaders Juventus in Turin.
January 6th is the day when Italy celebrates the Epiphany and newly appointed Sampdoria manager Delio Rossi looked to have his own epiphany when his charges went a goal down and a man down against the Turin club. Some bookies were giving out odds of 200-1 for a Sampdoria victory at that point and it seemed like fairly fair odds. But this is football and strange things can and do happen.
Rather than revert to a lone striker to shore up the defence Rossi persisted with his two up front, 19-year-old Mauro Icardi who was partnered up front by the more experienced Brazilian Eder. The gamble paid off as the youngster who had previously only netted one goal in Serie A latched onto a long ball from Krsticic and careened up the right flank to get a long shot in on Buffon that in truth he should have saved but instead trickled past the helpless ‘keeper. The home crowd were stunned into silence a few minutes later when Icardi was sent through by Obiang and finished a textbook striker’s goal to take the lead.
Sampdoria who have struggled this year have deployed the youngster regulary this season but he failed to make an impression toiling up front in a solitary position but the new manager’s faith seems to have paid off handsomely. With a slew of injuries to his forwards Rossi was forced to withdraw Icardi from representing the Argentina under-20 team in a World Cup qualifying competition. Instead, the player was given a chance to show what he can do up front with adequate support.
Not that it should come as such a surprise, Icardi is a product of the Barcelona youth academy. Born in Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario, he moved to the Canary Islands as a child and promptly attracted Europe’s biggest clubs with his prolific scoring for local side Vecindario. Legend has it that the Catalan club were so enamored with the youngster that they sent Messi himself to convince him to sign for the club. He showed all promise with 38 goals for the Barcelona youth team in his first season, but like so many, he didn’t make the cut. The striker has been described as having more in common with Gabriel Batistuta than Diego Maradona, so, for whatever reason, Barca let him go to Samp where he now earns his bread and butter.
Making waves in the Sampdoria youth team and eventually making the first team then Serie B, it was beginning to look ominously as if the step up to Serie A was maybe just too much for the player having only managed one goal this season was in the derby game against Genoa. But with the departure of Sampdoria's director, Pasquale Sensibile and the arrival of Delio Rossi Sampdoria have started the new year better than they could have hoped. Part of that is down to the new manager’s bravery in going for the win, part of that is the young Argentinian who stepped up to the plate and you sense a player whose time has come.
Although failing to net in last week's draw to AC Milan, the Argentinian has strengthened his hand as negotiations on his new contract at Sampdoria come to a close. He reportedly earns €200,000 per campaign, Samp are prepared to up his earnings to €300,000 however, the youngster is holding out for €400,000.