The return of Mickey Croissants

Ronaldo Vieira can’t escape Leeds United

Written by: Rob Conlon
Ronaldo Vieira playing for Sampdoria at Empoli in January 2023, wearing a sort of copper coloured shirt with the white, blue and red Samp bands across the chest that is either beautiful or hideous, not sure

Earlier this week, Ronaldo Vieira was briefly linked with a transfer from Sampdoria to Cagliari, the club formerly owned by Massimo Cellino and currently managed by Claudio Ranieri. Ranieri previously managed Vieira at Sampdoria, but a reunion was quickly rubbished by reports saying Cagliari have not bid for the midfielder.

Injuries have ruined Vieira’s last couple of seasons. He spent 2020/21 on loan at Verona, where he made only five appearances and suffered hamstring and thigh problems, the latter sidelining him for the first half of last term back at Sampdoria. This campaign has been much more productive — he has already played almost twice as many minutes as last season — but it hasn’t been much fun. Samp are a mess, second bottom of Serie A and eight points from safety. In his last two appearances, Vieira conceded a late penalty in a 2-0 defeat to Napoli, then missed a superb chance in front of goal in a 1-0 loss to Udinese as he and his teammates were unable to find a way past former Leeds ‘keeper Marco Silvestri.

Vieira is starting to get some help in midfield from Spurs loanee Harry Winks. Leeds were offered Winks in the summer of 2021, but Marcelo Bielsa wasn’t interested. A lack of imagination meant that, when Leeds were looking for reinforcements last January, the club offered Bielsa the chance to sign Winks again and got the same answer. After a couple of seasons collecting dust at Tottenham, Winks joined Sampdoria on loan at the start of 2022/23, immediately required ankle surgery, and only recently made his first competitive appearance in 239 days. He came on in the second half as Sampdoria lost 1-0 to Empoli, just in time to celebrate a 96th-minute equaliser that was ultimately ruled out by VAR, because that’s how things are generally going for them these days.

There were reports earlier this month that Samp were trying to renegotiate the terms of Winks’ loan so Spurs will pick up a larger chunk of his salary, given he couldn’t play for five months. They also have the option to make the deal permanent for £22m, which seems unlikely.

Enter a new hero, and another familiar face. Victor Orta might want to check if somebody has been rifling through his old scout reports, because Sampdoria are working on a move for Michael Cuisance, who is listed somewhere after Ben White and Josko Gvardiol, but before Cody Gakpo and Bamba Dieng, among Leeds United’s sliding doors non-signings.

Cuisance, or Mickey Croissants as he became affectionately known, was about to join Leeds from Bayern Munich for £20m in the summer after promotion, only to fail a medical. Instead, Bayern loaned him to Marseille for an unimpressive season, and he joined Venezia for £4m last January. Venezia were relegated from Serie A, and a report says Samp could be ‘trying to take advantage of the player’s desire to change the air’ from the second tier.

It seems like a risk. Cuisance is already the subject of articles headlined, ‘Whatever happened to…?’ A Bayern Munich blog remembers, ‘flashy skills, an iffy attitude, and a fair amount of expectations — Cuisance went through a cycle of pouting, providing some hope, and getting frustrated.’ He became known as The Stepover King at Bayern, because that was all he tended to do when he was given rare opportunities on the pitch. (If you have read the latest issue of The Square Ball, you will know that moniker actually belongs to Eddie Gray’s former understudy, Chris Galvin.)

Venezia sporting director Alex Mentatalked has admitted the club expected more from Cuisance, but defended the player against accusations of a poor attitude. Either way, we’re probably better off with Marc Roca.

Going for Cuisance is a desperate move in desperate times for Sampdoria, who are waiting for a takeover that never comes, which might sound like a familiar story. There are rumours of a Middle Eastern buyer ‘that existed only in the imagination of some storyteller’, while current owner Massimo Ferrero refuses to sell to American investors Merlyn, who also own Lille. Ferrero had to step down as Sampdoria president in December 2021 after being arrested on charges of alleged corporate crimes and fraudulent bankruptcy. Ferrero is a film producer who has acted sporadically since the 1960s, appearing in titles such as ‘Do You Mind If I Kiss Mom?’, the erotic comedy ‘Post Box Tinto Brass’, and ‘Poor But Rich’. He is no longer president, but still owns Samp, who need a €50m cash injection, as well as €10m to pay outstanding taxes and player wages from October, November, and December. If those bills aren’t paid by February 16th, Samp could face a points deduction. Ferrero, however, is refusing to attend board meetings or consider offers. One article describes him as ‘King Midas in reverse’.

Which brings us onto our final character from Leeds United’s past. Trying to make sense of the rubble left behind by Ferrero as president is Sampdoria’s former defender Marco Lanna. Lanna achieved a lot in his playing career, winning titles and cups with Sampdoria and earning international recognition with Italy. He was also tormented by David Batty in a pre-season tournament at Elland Road in 1992, the recipient of a subtle shove that sent him flying over the advertising hoardings in front of the West Stand.

Lanna probably has enough to worry about right now without being woken at night by visions of a curtain-haired number 4 calmly taking a throw-in while all hell breaks loose around him. Or maybe that’s his inspiration behind building a midfield of players with a point to prove to Leeds — a midfield we could have had, but didn’t want. Or maybe if Ronaldo Vieira swapped Beeston for Genoa hoping to escape so many Leeds vibes and quite fancies that move to Cagliari after all, he’ll just have to knock on his club’s president door and ask if they can reminisce about their experiences playing at Elland Road. If that doesn’t go down well with Lanna, at least they can talk about Gaetano Berardi instead. ⬢

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