Unione Calcio Samp-Doria was officially founded on 12 August 1946, the result of a merger between two Genoese clubs: Ginnastica Comunale Sampierdarenese and Ginnastica Andrea Doria. Competing in Serie A, the newly formed Blucerchiati instantly won plaudits for their attacking brand of football. Giuseppe Baldini, Adriano Bassetto and Renato Gei were the three members of the so-called Atomic Attack, a fearsome trio brimming with technical skill, mutual understanding and plenty of goals. Samp achieved respectable finishes in these first few years, most notably their fifth place in the 1948/49 season. Piero Sanguineti and Amedeo Rissotto were the first two presidents, with Aldo Parodi taking on the mantle in 1947.
Without the impetus of their great first strikeforce, Samp entered an era of consistent mid-table finishes. There were no great successes, though neither was there much danger of slipping out of Serie A. Yet the dimensions of the club changed in 1953, when Aldo Parodi was succeeded as president by Alberto Ravano, a man nicknamed Il Comandante. His ambitions more than matched those of the ever-growing Blucerchiati faithful, who were treated to some excellent signings over this period, such as defender Gaudenzio Bernasconi, inside forward Mario Tortul and the South African-Italian forward Edwing Firmani, bought from Charlton Athletic for 60 million lire.
After a 12th-place finish in the 1957/58 season, Sampdoria began to be a fixture at the business end of the Italian championship. Ravano continued to excel in the transfer market: Austrian captain and central-midfield general Ernst Ocwirk signed in 1956 and was followed by Argentine left winger Ernesto Cucchiaroni in 1958, Swedish centre-forward Lennart Skoglund in 1959 and Italian striker Sergio Brighenti in 1960. These reinforcements helped the Blucerchiati to a fourth-place finish in the 1960/61 season behind Juve, AC Milan and Inter, meaning they secured European football for the very first time. Brighenti’s 28 league goals saw him crowned Serie A top scorer that season.
Despite the successes, Ravano departed as president not long after the unpopular sale of Bruno Mora to Juventus in autumn 1960, with Glauco Lolli Ghetti taking over in 1961. Lolli Ghetti was unable to come good on his Scudetto pledges, and Samp would be in a very different place by the time Enrico De Franceschini took over the presidency in 1965. Samp won their Inter-Cities Fairs Cup round-of-32 clash against Luxembourg outfit Aris Bonnevoie in 1962/63, but bowed out in the very next round at the hands of Hungarian side Ferncvaros. The team’s disappointing Serie A finishes invoked the fury of the Blucerchiati supporters, who nonetheless invaded the San Siro pitch to celebrate after the (victorious) relegation play-off against Modena in June 1964. Samp were only delaying the inevitable, however, as they succumbed to relegation the very next season.
New president Arnaldo Salatti wasted no time in entrusting the reins of the team to Fulvio Bernardini, who had already been called in by his predecessor to provide support to Giuseppe Baldini the previous season. With a team strengthened by the likes of Roberto Vieri and Fulvio Francesconi, Bernardini guided Samp back to Serie A with a memorable campaign. Another presidential change arrived in 1968 as Mario Colantuoni took on the top job. Colantuoni may not have been able to restore Samp to the heights of the late 1950s, but he at least helped to consolidate the Blucerchiati’s reputation as a well-run, honest club. The likes of Vieri, Francesco Morini, Romeo Benetti and Mario Frustalupi departed the club, but the arrival of players such as Giovanni Lodetti and Luis Suarez and the emergence of youngsters of the calibre of Marcello Lippi and Ermanno Cristin more than offset the losses.
Relegation battles abounded for Samp between 1971 and 1976. And though it was a battle they always won, the Blucerchiati were forced to huff and puff and often only ensured their Serie A status on the last day of the season, as happened in 1972/73 when Loris Boni fired them to an away win over Torino. Giulio Rolandi took on the presidency for a single season in the summer of 1973, before Lolli Ghetti returned in 1974. Saved from relegation at the end of the 1973/74 season due to an alleged match-fixing agreement between Foggia and Verona, Samp continued their annual fight for survival with 12th- and 13th-place finishes in 1974/75 and 1975/76.
The club’s continued policy of selling their best players coupled with a marked lack of investment condemned the Blucerchiati to another relegation in the 1976/77 season, despite the breakout season of young star Alviero Chiorri. A difficult start to the following term forced Lolli Ghetti to resign, with Edmondo Costa taking on a caretaker role in February 1978 as the club waited for a proper buyer. That man – Paolo Mantovani – came along on 3 July 1979, promising first a return to Serie A and then Scudetto glory. Part of the rebuilding process was the construction of the brand-new Centro Sportivo Gloriano Mugnaini, opened on 14 February 1980 and named after the father of the Blucerchiati’s organised support.
Under a fourth new manager in little over two seasons, Mantovani didn’t take long to come good on his first promise: promotion to Serie A. It happened in the 1981/82 season, after five long years of Serie B purgatory, with Renzo Ulivieri in the dugout. President Mantovani began assembling the building blocks of a team that would win the 1984/85 Coppa Italia in the two-legged final against AC Milan under coach Eugenio Bersellini. It was the first silverware the club had ever won. Thanks to the support of general manager Paolo Borea, the likes of Luca Pellegrini, Alessandro Scanziani, Roberto Mancini, Trevor Francis, Liam Brady, Ivano Bordon, Pietro Vierchowod, Fausto Pari, Gianluca Vialli, Fausto Salsano, Moreno Mannini and Graeme Souness all donned the fabled Blucerchiati jersey, striking the perfect balance between established players and emerging talents. There followed a successful period of seventh-, sixth- and fourth-place finishes in 1982/83, 1983/84 and 1984/85.
The arrival of coach Vujadin Boskov and signings Toninho Cerezo, Gianluca Pagliuca and Attilio Lombardo gave the team the international dimension and chutzpah it needed to make the step up to the big time. And what a step up it was: two Coppa Italia triumphs on the spin (against Torino in 1987/88 and Napoli in 1988/89) were followed up with two consecutive Cup Winners’ Cup finals. The first – in 1989 – saw Samp go down 2-0 to Barcelona in Bern, but the Blucerchiati finally tasted European glory in the 1990 final as they defeated Anderlecht 2-0 thanks to an extra-time double from Gianluca Vialli. Samp became synonymous with style and sporting talent all over the world, with Vialli and Roberto Mancini forming a formidable strike partnership. The club achieved their ultimate goal at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on 19 May 1991, beating Lecce 3-0 to clinch Serie A glory with a match to spare. Vialli was the league’s top scorer with 19 goals.
The 1991/92 season began with Samp lifting the Italian Super Cup at the expense of Roma, but any hopes of retaining the Scudetto proved to be misplaced. In contrast, the Blucerchiati enjoyed a thrilling European Cup run. After beating Rosenborg and Budapest Honvéd in the first and second rounds, Samp came out on top in a group containing Red Star Belgrade, Anderlecht and Panathinaikos to set up a final clash with Barcelona. Yet there would be heartbreak at Wembley as Ronald Koeman scored a 112th-minute free-kick to silence the 30,000 Samp fans in London and bring down the curtain on a glorious cycle in Blucerchiati history. Vujadin Boskov, Gianluca Vialli, Fausto Pari and Toninho Cerezo all departed, with Swedish coach Sven-Göran Eriksson taking over what would become a very young Samp team. The results wouldn’t come and, on the eve of the new season, Paolo Mantovani stunned everyone by bringing Ruud Gullit, Alberigo Evani and David Platt to the Ligurian capital. Sadness touched the club on 14 October 1993 as the great president passed away from illness, with his son Enrico inheriting the team. Under the younger Mantovani, the Blucerchiati finished an impressive third in Serie A and plundered their fourth Coppa Italia (against Ancona), before two eighth-place finishes followed.
Despite the extensive investment undertaken to bring the likes of Sinisa Mihajlovic, Ariel Ortega, Enrico Chiesa, Clarence Seedorf, Christian Karembeu, Vincenzo Montella, Juan Sebastián Verón and Alain Boghossian to the club, Enrico Mantovani was unable to match his father’s success as Sampdoria president. The departure of the great Roberto Mancini at the end of 1996/97, coupled with a clear dip in the squad’s general quality, led to animosity between a section of the fans and the club ownership. Samp slipped down to Serie B once again in the 1998/99 season after Intertoto Cup participation coupled with managerial changes – Luciano Spalletti was sacked, replaced by David Platt and Giorgio Veneri and then reinstated once more – and some raw luck from the referees proved too much for the club to bear. The Blucerchiati were unable to bounce straight back, recording successive fifth-place finishes in Serie B in the 1999/00 and 2000/01 seasons.
The club found itself mired in economic crisis in the summer of 2001, with only the sale of Simone Vergassola to Torino enabling them to take their place in Serie B for the following season. On the field the team struggled, narrowly avoiding relegation to the third tier of Italian football. Meanwhile, on 20 February 2002, oil tycoon Riccardo Garrone of ERG – the club’s sponsor during the golden era of the early 90s – took control of the club. After steadying the ship, the new president began a rebuilding project: director general Giuseppe Marotta and coach Walter Novellino were entrusted with the task of creating a team capable of winning promotion and re-establishing the club in Serie A. Star striker Francesco Flachi stayed at the club, while the arrivals of Fabio Bazzani, Sergio Volpi and Angelo Palombo helped secure a glorious return to the top tier in the 2002/03 season. The next two terms would see Samp narrowly miss out on qualification to first the UEFA Cup and then the promised land of the Champions League.
Walter Novellino’s last year in charge coincided with Francesco Flachi’s farewell and the emergence of a certain Fabio Quagliarella, with the club’s ninth-place finish securing them an Intertoto spot. Walter Mazzarri was installed as coach, while big names such as Vincenzo Montella, Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini helped the club to a sixth-place finish in 2007/08 and a Coppa Italia final in 2008/09 (Samp went down to Lazio on penalties). Luigi Del Neri guided the Blucerchiati to fourth place in the 2009/10 season, securing a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds and a record points tally of 67. Yet 2010/11 was a nightmare season for Palombo and Co. as they crashed out of first the Champions League to Werder Bremen and then the Europa League and Coppa Italia before slumping to the fourth relegation in their history.
Samp struggled to adapt to Serie B, despite an extensive reinforcement campaign led by new sporting director Pasquale Sensibile. Gianluca Atzori was replaced at the helm by Giuseppe Iachini in mid-November, and thanks to some sterling work in the January transfer window the Blucerchiati managed to secure a sixth-place playoff spot.
Samp beat Sassuolo after a 2-1 home victory and a 1-1 away draw before beating Varese 3-2 and 0-1 to return to Serie A thanks to the goals of captain Daniele Gastaldello and Nicola Pozzi. The summer of 2012 saw Rinaldo Sagramola come in as CEO, while Ciro Ferrara became the club’s new coach. After winning the Trofeo Gamper against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, Samp made an electric start to the new season, immediately offsetting a points deduction relating to the football betting scandal that engulfed Italian football around that time.
Despite a 3-1 win over cross-town rivals Genoa, a slew of poor results saw Sensibile and Ferrara replaced with Carlo Osti and Delio Rossi in the autumn. Things changed under Rossi, who secured a stunning win away at the mighty Juventus and guided the Blucerchiati to safety come the end of the season. Yet the year was marred by the death of president Riccardo Garrone on 21 January, with his son Edoardo replacing him on 28 February 2013.
Rossi was confirmed for the 2013/14 season, but with Samp in the relegation places in mid-November Garrone decided to replace the Italian with Sinisa Mihajlovic, who had an extraordinary impact. The former Serbia boss brought grit and organisation to the club, winning the second derby of the season thanks to a goal from Maxi Lopez and securing Samp’s Serie A permanence in unlikely fashion. On 12 June 2014, Massimo Ferrero became the new president of Sampdoria, bringing down the curtain on the 12-year Garrone era.
Ahead of the 2016/17 season, president Massimo Ferrero decided to entrust the team to Marco Giampaolo, who – after a mixed start – beat Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna before repeating the feat in the reverse fixture later in the season, something that hadn’t happened since the 1959/60 campaign. The results secured Giampaolo’s place in the hearts of the Blucerchiati faithful, while the team secured a top-half finish thanks to some flowing football that played into the hands of attacking trio Fabio Quagliarella, Luis Muriel and Patrick Schick. There were historic results along the way too, such as wins over Inter (2-1) and AC Milan (1-0) at San Siro.
Captain Angelo Palombo hung up his boots at the end of the 2016/17 season and joined Giampaolo’s coaching team, with the captain’s armband passing to Quagliarella. The striker rose to the responsibility, producing some of the best goal-scoring form of his career alongside strike partner Duvan Zapata as Samp enjoyed a scintillating start to the 2017/18 campaign. Doria finished the season in tenth position for the second year in a row, increasing their points tally from 48 to 54.
Giampaolo stuck to his playing philosophy for his third year in charge, but many of the personnel were different, with Gregoire Defrel brought in to replace Zapata in attack. Following a difficult start to the season, which was postponed due to the Morandi Bridge disaster and then began with a defeat to Udinese, Samp managed to steady the ship and ended up having a strong first half of the campaign. The January signing of Manolo Gabbiadini provided a boost in attack, while Quagliarella continued his electrifying form, equalling Gabriel Omar Batistuta’s record for goals in consecutive Serie A matches as he won the top-scorer gong for the second straight year (26 goals) and was crowned Best Forward in Serie A. Home wins over Genoa (2-0) and Juventus (2-0) provided a fitting end to Giampaolo’s three-year stint as coach, as Doria finished in a respectable ninth place.
The man appointed to carry on from where Giampaolo left off was Eusebio Di Francesco, yet sadly things didn’t turn out the way both club and coach wanted. A poor start saw Di Francesco leave the Blucerchiati, with Claudio Ranieri brought in to remedy Samp’s precarious league position: the team sat bottom of Serie A with just one win from seven rounds of matches. Ranieri – who was always the first choice for Ferrero – promptly set about building the team back up, hauling Doria out of the relegation zone in the space of a few weeks, thanks in part to a win in his first Genoa derby (1-0, Gabbiadini). Samp were by no means out of the woods, and the rest of the season brought with it plenty of ups and downs, but the side refused to give in. After the enforced stoppage following the COVID-19 pandemic, Samp secured the points they needed to stay up with four games to spare, finishing above crosstown rivals Genoa once again.