Greg Lea introduces Sampdoria's Roberto Soriano, who could prove an intelligent replacement for Yaya Toure...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: February 8, 1991
- Place of birth: Darmstadt, Germany
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Position: Central midfield
- Current club: Sampdoria (97 apps, 8 goals)
- Former club: Empoli (loan)
- International: Italy (3 apps, 0 goals)
Roberto Soriano was born to Italian parents in the German city of Darmstadt in 1991. Having started out with local amateur teams in the region, his performances quickly attracted attention from scouts representing professional clubs. As is so often the case in Germany, Bayern Munich came out on top and Soriano joined the Bavarians' youth setup aged 15 in 2006.
A lack of opportunities frustrated the youngster, though, and when Sampdoria showed interest in 2009 he had no qualms about moving south to Italy. After a spell in Samp’s Primavera youth team, the then-19-year-old joined Serie B side Empoli on loan for the 2010/11 season.
Soriano clearly impressed in Tuscany, because he was brought into Sampdoria’s first-team squad for the following campaign. He has steadily improved ever since, culminating in his best season to date this year. Soriano has been a key part of the Blucerchiati’s unlikely push for the Champions League, providing energy, drive and a good range of passing from the centre of midfield.
Why you need to know him
Soriano’s impressive form has not gone unnoticed: Schalke, Inter, Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City are just some of the clubs linked with him in the past few months.
The Italian hasn't exactly played down the speculation either, remarking in a recent interview that “every player dreams of one day playing for a big club” and “my agent deals with these things... we’ll see what happens in June”.
Italy coach Antonio Conte appears to have taken to the Sampdoria man, too: the 24-year-old was handed his Azzurri debut in November, playing 62 minutes of Italy’s 1-1 draw with Croatia, and recently started alongside Mirko Valdifiori and Marco Parolo in central midfield against England.
Soriano is an all-round box-to-box midfielder, able to start moves with his passing ability and break them up with good tackling and energetic defensive work.
His off-the-ball contributions are also worthy of praise. Sampdoria boss Sinisa Mihajlovic has created a well-drilled outfit of which Soriano is a vital part: he possesses an excellent tactical understanding of the game, is always aware of how he fits into the collective and rarely gets caught out of position.
Yaya Toure's future at Manchester City is under more scrutiny than ever, and this summer could provide Soriano's opening to join a team that must think carefully about the shelf life of any future arrivals. At 24, the Germany-born Italy international passes that bar at least.
Despite being competent at many different aspects of the modern-day midfield role, it is questionable whether Soriano excels enough in one area of the game to make it at the very highest level. Indeed, he probably doesn't possess the requisite subtlety and guile to take on a creative mantle, nor can he be labelled a specialist holding player.
Scoring goals is another area where Soriano could improve. He has netted just twice all season, the first a tap-in from three yards against bottom-of-the-table crisis club Parma, before he doubled his tally against Milan in Sunday's 1-1 draw at the San Siro. Getting on the scoresheet more regularly should be a priority.
Sampdoria’s sporting director Carlo Osti may have multiple interests to declare, but his comments about Soriano in November cannot be dismissed as mere bias to a fellow employee.
“I am very pleased that Soriano was called up [to represent Italy by Conte]. He deserves it. He’s had a very positive start to the championship. Mihajlovic deserves credit for finding the most tactically suitable position for him; maybe that was the key factor in allowing him to express all of his technical potential.”
Conte’s words as well as his actions reveal him to be a big fan. “I like the enthusiasm of Soriano,” said the former Juventus coach after the recent draw with England. “Soriano, Valdifiori, Eder, Franco Vazquez and Graziano Pelle are all players that I liked this evening. They have just started playing with the national team and want to do well. I trust these guys.”
Did you know?
In an interview given just weeks after he quit Bayern for Sampdoria in 2009, Soriano admitted that he considered his time in Bavaria to be a disappointment.
“It was my dream to make it big at Bayern, but I had the feeling that the club didn’t rate me,” the midfielder, who played alongside David Alaba, Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber and Toni Kroos, told SPOX.
“I would have liked it if Uli Hoeness, Jurgen Klinsmann or Hermann Gerland had briefly asked my perspective, but unfortunately that did not materialise. Bayern did not really make plans with me so I decided to go.”
The club’s legendary former striker and current chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge seems to sympathise, suggesting last week that the Germans should have done more to try to keep hold of Soriano.
“Maybe it was a mistake to let him go,” Rummenigge admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport. “We’ve probably underestimated him.”
- Shooting 7
- Heading 6
- Passing 8
- Tackling 8
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 6
- Creativity 7
- Work-rate 8
What happens next?
Soriano’s contract with Sampdoria runs until 2017, but it's difficult to see the club keeping him should the likes of Dortmund or Manchester City come calling in the summer. Samp are still right in contention for a spot in next season’s Europa League, yet will still expect to entertain bids for some of their prized assets even if qualification is secured.
Although he does appear to be settled in Italy’s north-west – when the city of Genoa was hit by severe flooding in October, Soriano proclaimed that “Genoa is my home... the city feels a part of me” – a move to one of the giants of European football would surely be too good to turn down. Aged 24, Soriano’s next step will be an important one.