Twice already this season the Red Bull Arena has shouted out the name of Samson … and … BAIDOO after vital goals. Anyone who has followed our UEFA Youth League team has known for years that the 1.90-metre-tall defender is there to make a difference at the other end of the pitch when needed.
One such instance was in autumn 2021 in the final minute of stoppage time in a decisive UEFA Youth League group stage match at VfL Wolfsburg, when our Young Bulls ventured on one last attack with the score tied at 1-1. Sammy started the move forward and then raced upfield to complete it with a cool finish in the penalty area to seal a 2-1 win – a moment that the youngster says "will be one of my big personal highlights for a very long time."
As a youth player at GAK I was a striker for a long time!
The 19-year-old defender is thrilled about the attacking danger he offers, which is not by coincidence: "As a youth player at GAK, I played as a striker for a long time! I only switched to centre-back shortly before my move to Salzburg. I was relatively big as a child, strong and fast. Those were all good characteristics of a centre-back. Indeed, I turned out to be better there than in attack."
He is confident enough in his abilities though to promise he can make an impact as a makeshift attacker if Gerhard Struber ever decides to use that option. Samson has plenty to do for now in our back line, however.
It became clear right from the start of the season that the talented graduate of the Red Bull Football Academy is a shining example of our Salzburg Way worthy of plenty of playing time. An injury crisis even provided the opportunity for the youngster from Graz to make several starts.
"There were some good discussions on the topic before the season started. It was made clear to me that I would get my chance this season. That made me even more motivated!"
He knows exactly how to deal with players and talk to them.
Someone else who has just made the leap to the top is a long-time companion in Samson's development - our new sporting director Bernhard Seonbuchner, who previously was head of the academy. "He was my coach at U16 level," Samson tells us, looking back saying: "That was a really good and successful time, and we won pretty much everything. He knows exactly how to deal with players and talk to them. He is often very direct - which is good too - but really friendly, for sure!"
I often go to watch FC Liefering play.
Although Samson has been part of our Red Bulls' squad since last season, the central defender has still kept a great sense of connection to the academy, saying: "There are a few team-mates from my Youth League days, such as Tolgahan Sahin, Benjamin Atiabou or Mo Sadeqi, who still play there. I often go to watch FC Liefering play."
Samson's footballing development came extremely quickly in childhood. He began to play for a club at the age of eight. He started off in a schoolboys' league, which took him to Grazer AK. When switching to Salzburg, Samson was just 14, and while his move was a great joy it came tinged with home sickness.
I noticed as time went on that this is what life as a footballer is about, and you rarely get a chance to live near your family.
"I was really pleased to be playing for the best youth team in Austria. It was a big adjustment to make though. It's totally different when your dad takes you to training and then your mum cooks you dinner - as happens when you are around your parents.
They looked after us well at the academy, but you are all alone to some extent. I noticed as time went on that is what life as a footballer is about, and you rarely get a chance to live close to your family."
The family may be on the other side of Austria, but they continue to play a big role in the life of the big defensive talent. As a son of Ghanaian parents, Samson grew up with four siblings. He would be the only footballer in the Baidoo family, even if the joy of the game touched the rest of the family. Samson's father was a Chelsea fan, but Sammy would end up adopting a very different favourite team.
My favourite team in childhood was Bayern Munich.
"My favourite team in childhood was Bayern Munich. When our two teams played each other in the Champions League final in 2012 that was a funny situation - and a sad one for me in the end."
Which players does Sammy look up to? "Mainly Antonio Rüdiger. I think that we have some similarities in our play. We are both calm on the ball and try to give a team a secure platform. Other role models for me are Kalidou Koulibaly and Dayot Upamecano."
The 19-year-old could just be destined for similar success to the players he mentions. He packs enough physical strength and technical ability, as well as a willingness to get stuck in. The big Baidoo breakthrough for the Austrian national team is surely on the horizon. Sammy wants to take a call from Ralf Rangnick when the time comes.
"We had a training camp for promising young players recently. I was really thrilled to be a part of that and show what I can do - and I'm pleased to have been on the standby list for the national team."
Enough about the football though – we have to ask what Samson is like as a person.
I am – I think – best described as a chilled guy.
"Hmm, yeah, good question," he says with a sheepish laugh. "I'm a quiet and relaxed guy, never aggressive or anything. I definitely find the right balance to go into challenges with the right level of determination on the pitch. Away from football I like to play table tennis and volleyball when we go to the lake in the summer with friends. Amankwah Forson is my next-door neighbour, and I often do something with him - we mostly go together to training or back home. I think I am best described as a rather chilled guy."
Samson seems to have hit the nail on the head with his description of himself. His quiet and friendly nature, and indeed his casual oldschool cap as we walk along the River Salzach show that his meteoric ascent in recent months has not gone to his head at all. Samson Baidoo remains, for us in Salzburg, our good old Sammy from the block.