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Serie A is becoming a rather welcoming place for ageing strikers. In a league where the pace is notoriously slow, it is perhaps no surprise that Italy is taking good care of its elders. Last season’s top scorer was Luca Toni who at the age of 37 netted 22 goals for Verona, while Antonio Di Natale, also 37, Fabio Quagliarella (32), Massimo Maccarone (35) and Miroslav Klose, aged 36, all reached double figures.
Antonio Cassano failed to complete the campaign after his mid-season release from cash-strapped Parma but the 32 year old had already racked up five goals for the Ducali after hitting 13 goals and registering eight assists for them in the season before. Now Cassano is at Sampdoria for his second spell with the Genoese club, but finds himself playing a support role for another striker hitting form as he approaches his 30s.
Eder, the naturalised Brazilian now into a fourth season with a club for the first time in his eleven years in Italy, is approaching his 29th birthday and isn’t as old as the aforementioned group of prolific veterans, but he is following the theme of unfancied Serie A strikers who appear to become more deadly in-front of goal as their years advance.
Having never previously managed more than the 12 he got for Sampdoria for the 2013/14 campaign in the Italian top-flight he already has nine for this season and currently tops the league’s goal-scoring charts.
He has been often so easily overlooked, probably owing to the way he has been shuffled around both wings and as a false nine under the four managers he has played under in his second stint with Sampdoria, but now operating mainly as a conventional striker under Walter Zenga, usually as a partner to Luis Muriel, he has hit his stride.
After scoring twice on the opening day thrashing of Carpi, Eder scored twice to earn a 2-2 draw away at Napoli before scoring a late goal to put Sampdoria ahead against Bologna and scoring the opener as they ended Roma’s unbeaten start in mid-September.
Last Thursday saw Eder net his 100th career goal in the 1-1 draw with Empoli, a fine first-time finish, to place Sampdoria 11th in the table, currently four points off fifth placed AC Milan with a game in hand. He hasn’t dealt in just goals either, providing a wonderful scooped chip for Roberto Soriano to volley home in the 4-1 thrashing of Verona, and with 12 chances created only Soriano, Muriel and Fernando have made more in the Sampdoria squad.
With Cassano’s struggles with injuries preventing the former Roma and Real Madrid striker from starting a game until the defeat to Frosinone on the 18th October, Eder’s form has been a pleasing factor for Sampdoria who have had to react to losing Pedro Obiang and Stefano Okaka, two central performers in their campaign that led to a seventh-place finish, to West Ham and Anderlecht.
Luis Muriel, signed from Udinese as a replacement to Okaka, has had an immediate impact, scoring 4 times and assisting two goals while Fernando, a £5 million acquisition from Shakhtar to fill the central-midfield void vacated by Obiang, is rated as Sampdoria’s star all-round performer according to Whoscored, but it is Eder who has once again led the charge.
He was the top-scorer for the Blucerchiati last year with 9, adding to the 12 he hit the previous year which made it baffling how he was overlooked by Luiz Felipe Scolari and Brazil for the 2014 World Cup in favour of Fred, and he already has as many this term.
Distant dream and Italy call-up
Brazil’s plethora of footballing talent has meant a call up to the Selecao has always been a distant dream for the striker who had got most of his professional goals in the surroundings of Serie B up until he re-joined the top-flight with Sampdoria.
Eder’s form in Genoa however has been noticed by Italy who have capped the striker 6 times, Antonio Conte handing him a first call-up as recently as March much to the chagrin of traditionalists, who found a spokesman in the form of Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, who questioned the suitability of naturalised citizens representing the national team.
The perfect riposte was delivered with a late equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Bulgaria, preserving the Azzurri’s unbeaten European Championship qualifying record that stretches back to 2006, then scoring in the 1-3 win away in Azerbaijan that sent Conte’s men to the finals in France.
With Mario Balotelli seemingly excluded from Conte’s plans Eder appears to be well-placed to form part of Italy’s attack-line next summer. For a player who has probably grown accustomed to being ignored there can be no greater motivation to keep on finding the net.
France 2016 — the biggest stage for the Sampdoria star
France 2016 will present Eder with the biggest stage to play on, representing the latest stop on a sharp rise for the attacker who has been more used to serving the likes of Empoli, Brescia and Cesena as he jumped between Serie A and Serie B.
Now he has settled under Zenga at Sampdoria, goals are beginning to flow and, with his 30s looming on the horizon, he may well become the latest Serie A striker to hit red-hot form as he enters his latter-years.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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