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Sampdoria’s striking gamble: Selling Manolo Gabbiadini, buying Luis Muriel

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the January transfer window in full swing, Serie A has been one of the busiest of Europe’s major top flights in the purchasing and selling of players.

Alongside Inter’s double loan capture of Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski, AC Milan have rescued Atlético Madrid fringe star Alessio Cerci from the Estadio Vicente Calderón bench for the rest of the campaign.

However, Sampdoria have been embroiled in a striker merry-go-round which will shape the rest of their campaign, as well as signing highly rated Argentine attacking midfielder Joaquín Correa.

The Genoa-based outfit are having an excellent season thusfar, as despite not winning any of their last three fixtures Siniša Mihajlović’s men sit in sixth place at the time of writing.

Ahead of hosting Empoli today, Sampdoria are only three points adrift of the Champions League qualification places and it is clear that there is something of a revival happening at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris outfit.

Correa has caught the eye for Estudiantes in his homeland and is a raw talent that could well be moulded into a special player at Sampdoria, but in the short term the departure of a key striker and the success of his replacement will be critical in the club’s continued ability to challenge for a top-six finish.

Manolo Gabbiadini played a considerable role in helping i Blucerchiati finish 12th last season and avoid any potential relegation concerns in the club’s tricky second campaign back in the top flight.

The 23-year-old was on Juventus’ books but impressed in a loan spell at Bologna during 2012-13, convincing Sampdoria to purchase half his ownership rights and bring him to the club ahead of last season.

The centre forward had also starred for the Italian under-21 side for a number of years, netting 12 goals at age-grade level to add to his burgeoning reputation.

Gabbiadini quickly proved that he could score goals at the highest level, netting eight in Serie A last term that included a number of vital strikes that would ensure Sampdoria’s top-flight safety.

Luis MurielThis season the 23-year-old already has seven league strikes from only 11 starts and had formed an enviable understanding with fellow Italy international Stefano Okaka.

However, Sampdoria’s star striker Gabbiadini has been rewarded for his strong performances over the last 18 months with a switch to Napoli, reportedly worth €13 million.

Although not guaranteed a regular first-team spot at San Paolo due to the presence of Gonzalo Higuaín and Duván Zapata, the opportunity to play in a team that has qualified for the Champions League in the last two seasons was one too good to turn down.

Gabbiadini’s departure leaves a considerable void, but Mihajlović’s men have seemingly been quick to act in their search for a replacement.

Regardless of rumblings that Everton forward Samuel Eto’o could be inbound, the signing of Luis Muriel has been confirmed by Udinese director of sport Christian Giaretta.

The Colombian forward has suffered contrasting fortunes since moving to Udinese from Lecce in 2012; initially 11 Serie A goals in 15 starts in 2012-13 saw him compared to Brazilian phenomenon Ronaldo due to his ability with the ball at his feet.

However, injuries and the lack of consistent time in the Stadio Friuli starting XI have seen Muriel’s stock drop slightly, while the 23-year-old missed out on Colombian World Cup selection during the summer.

Replacing Gabbiadini will be a big ask for Muriel, but the South American will just be glad to get regular first-team action after only starting five Serie A games this season.

Muriel possesses a unique skill-set and he has proven in Italian football that when in the mood and on form he can be virtually unplayable; the issue Sampdoria have is that these hot streaks have been too few and far between.

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