Italian football is in a state of mourning after Sampdoria President Riccardo Garrone passed away on Monday following a long illness. He would have celebrated his 77th birthday two days later.
"Riccardo Garrone was a President estimated for his willingness to co-operate, for his passion and his honesty for the good of football," wrote FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in a letter to the Italian's son, Edoardo. "His passing is a great loss to the city of Genoa and Italian football.
"FIFA expresses all its condolences for the loss of an extraordinary man who was guided by human values and sports values. He was an example of how to live and manage our sport."
An oil magnate and a father of six, he took over at the helm of the Genoa-based outfit in 2002. Known for his productive business dealings, he was a board member and honorary chairman of ERG, an oil firm founded by his father in 1938, which he ran with great success for 40 years before handing over the reins to his aforementioned son in 2003.
Regarded as something of a father figure at Sampdoria, his company has sponsored the team’s jerseys since season 1988/89, and his name will forever be associated with a resurgent era in the club’s history.
In 1999, I Blucerchiati were relegated to Serie B and subsequently experienced severe financial problems. Garrone stepped in during the summer of 2001, initially clearing the club’s significant debts and then taking over completely in 2002, replacing the Mantovani family, who had been owners since 1979.
Under his stewardship, Sampdoria achieved promotion back to Serie A in 2003. Spearheaded by the attacking pair of Antonio Cassano, who is said to have enjoyed a father-son relationship with Garrone, and Giampaolo Pazzini, the team secured a place in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League play-off round, enthralling their loyal fanbase in the process.
“It’s one of the saddest days of my life. He’ll forever have a place in my heart,” said Cassano upon hearing the sad news.
Just a few months after the side’s Champions League venture, the onset of liver cancer forced Garrone to hand control of the club to his son. He watched on as Sampdoria were demoted again at the end of the 2010/11 campaign, only to see them come straight back up the following year.
"Gentleman, husband, father, grandfather, industrialist, sporting leader – we simply want to remember him in the Curva Sud, with a scarf around his neck and his arms in the air,” said the club’s official website. “As supporters of Sampdoria, we will never forget him, and would like to thank him for all he did.”