The net-bursting exploits of Gonzalo Higuain have been well-documented this season, the Napoli striker taking his 2015/16 tally to 21 in 21 league games this past weekend as he continues to fuel the Scudetto dreams of fans at the Stadio San Paolo. Elsewhere, Mauro Icardi has helped ensure Inter are part of the title race, while Paulo Dybala has replaced Carlos Tevez at Juventus as the Old Lady’s leading man.
Yet while that trio hope to dance their way to the Serie A crown, sandwiched between them in the scoring charts is Brazilian-born Eder, whose Sampdoria side have slumped perilously down the table in recent weeks. Indeed, since Vincenzo Montella replaced Walter Zenga on November 15, the Genoa-based club have lost eight times in eleven matches, crashing out of the Coppa Italia and being dragged into the relegation battle.
It is a remarkable downturn in fortune for a club who finished seventh and secured a Europa League berth last term, falling out of that competition at the first hurdle and desperately searching for a solution to their problems. Were it not for Eder – whose total of 12 league goals puts him above everyone but Higuain – their issues would likely be far worse, his personal haul accounting for 39% of Sampdoria’s overall attacking return.
The season has taken on an eerily similar feeling to the 2010/11 campaign for the club, who a year earlier had finished fourth only to crash out of the Champions League Playoff round and they would end that campaign in 18th place. Their previous good form had been driven by the goals of Giampaolo Pazzini, and they would make the mistake of selling him to Inter in January, adding to their woes and dropping into Serie B with a whimper.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Sampdoria are believed to be contemplating a similar move now, with the Nerazzurri willing to pay close to the €15 million asking price for Eder. The famous pink paper reports that Premier League leaders Leicester City have matched that bid, then offering the 29-year-old forward a much higher salary than the Milanese giants.
The reason he is attracting so much attention is quite simple because, while Eder may not grab the headlines in the same way that the aforementioned South American trio, yet he has proven no less effective. Largely deployed on the left flank, he routinely sacrifices himself for the cause yet continues to score at an impressive rate, already matching his previous career-high for goals in the top flight.
Repeated coaching changes while he has been at Sampdoria – Montella is his fifth boss in four years – have seen him become adept in a variety of roles and statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com show the defensive effort he puts forth. Averaging one tackle and 0.6 interceptions per game, Eder ensures the opposition defenders rarely have time on the ball, yet his diligent work tracking back appears to have little effect on his attacking contribution.
Hitting the target with 58% of his shot attempts – better than Higuain’s own impressive 55% mark – shows just how accurate he is in front of goal, while the fact all but one of his strikes has come from inside the box highlights the sheer amount of running he is willing to do for the team. Eder has netted with two headers, his favoured left foot responsible for the other ten and for a steady supply of crosses for his team-mates, former Coach Siniša Mihajlović clearly helping to improve the player’s ability at set-pieces.
That was a skill Eder clearly demonstrated during his debut for the Italian national team in March last year, firing home a superb free-kick to hand the Azzurri victory over Bulgaria. Yet he remains a consummate team player, one clearly more concerned with the final score than any personal glory, a trait perhaps behind the interest of Claudio Ranieri and Leicester.
“I’m not obsessed with scoring. I don’t despair if I don’t score. Wide players have to make sacrifices,” Eder said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last term, music to the ears of any Coach and a viewpoint that has undoubtedly endeared him with the maniacally driven Italy boss Antonio Conte.
He continues to be a part of the Italy set-up as Euro 2016 approaches, and is believed to have refused lucrative offers from China and Qatar recently. “I need to play in a beautiful and prestigious league like the Italian one more than I need to make money,” he told the Corriere dello Sport earlier this month, but it does seem as if he will be on the move.
Whatever happens, it is hard to ignore the echo of history as Sampdoria’s leading goal scorer looks set to move on, a loss from which other clubs are almost certainly going to benefit.