How often do you find a club desperate to off load its top-scorer of the past couple of seasons since his transfer? It’s rare but when it does happen it seems surprising.
Not surprising when your name is Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, though.
Ever the man known more for his off-field antics rather than his on-field class, the Italian international perfected the art of getting more media coverage than Roma’s eternal hero Francesco Totti. He is amongst the few players to be at the receiving end of both the fans fury and critical acclaim.
Having finally lived up to his early promise at Espanyol, he was amongst the many new faces heralded to kick start Thomas DiBennedetto project at the Olimpico under Luis Enrique back in the summer of 2011. Not losing momentum from his good form in Spain, the Argentine-born forward was quick to get onto the good books of the Roman faithful earning praise from all over for having a good eye for goal – some of them spectacular, some of them not but crucial nevertheless.
So much so that following injuries to several first choice strikers like Giuseppe Rossi and Giampaolo Pazzini, Cesare Prandelli couldn’t resist the urge to hand him a first international cap for his adopted country in October, 2011. That was perhaps an acknowledgment from the national team coach of his indisputable talent and Mario Balotelli aside, Italy had found another strong imposing (literally) figure to lead the line.
Until, of course the Johnny Depp look-alike allegedly punched Roma teammate Erik Lamela in the dressing room the same season.
Angry at the Argentine because he ignored his demand for a pass, the incident didn’t go down well with the club hierarchy and the striker was handed over a three game suspension following which his goals and good performances have always been followed by some controversy or the other.
Following the winter break last season, the striker called in sick and missed the winter camp in the United States infuriating the American owners to further weaken a relationship that was already hanging by a thread.
|Not so friendly | Osvaldo once allegedly punched Erik Lamela in the face after an on-field row|
What perhaps broke down his relationship with the fans was that incident in February at the Marassi when Sampdoria hosted Roma. The Giallorossi were awarded a penalty when down by a goal and with penalty specialist Totti stepping up to take what was supposed to be a routine spot-kick, Osvaldo argued that since he had won it, he should be the one taking it. With the away fans furious over what in their eyes was disrespect to the greatest ever Roman player in history, their anger was compounded when he missed it with what looked like a lame effort to beat the goalkeeper.
Roma lost the game 1-3, and that was it.
Then there was the occasion where he spent the night in London with his girlfriend while Roma slogged it out against Lazio in Rome. He was suspended for that match and would have played no part in it, but it was not taken well by the club.
The final nail in the coffin though was that incident in May when Roma lost the Coppa Italia final against city-rivals Lazio. Sulky over not starting the game from the start, the striker vented his frustration by mouthing some choice words to interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli and punching the advertisement hoarding on his way back to the dressing room. And that was not enough, there was more in store for the caretaker manager as the striker took to Twitter to criticize and insult him.
"You would do more good if you admit to being an incompetent…go and celebrate with those of Lazio…", tweeted the striker. "He is just a cry baby", responded the 59-year old.
The result? He was dropped by Prandelli for the Confederations Cup in Brazil. Perhaps, that was also the moment Roma knew it for sure that his talent aside, Osvaldo needed to be sold.
Using stones, eggs and God knows what not, the fans having lost their patience showed their disgust both during the course of last season and this summer when he arrived for the first pre-season training in Tregoria. They wanted him out too, and their wish was granted on Sunday when following a mysterious transfer saga amid interests from Tottenham and Inter, Southampton snapped the Italian international for a handy €17 million (plus performance related add-ons).
However, despite the negativity surrounding the entire episode there are a lot of positives to the transfer.
Southampton acquire a very talented forward, who with a World Cup spot for Italy in sight would look to put his turmoil in the Italian capital behind him and concentrate more on his on-field performance. He has been in great form since his time at Espanyol and having already worked with Mauricio Pochettino at the Spanish club, his relationship with the current Saints manager could help him settle into the squad.
|"I left because I couldn’t take the atmosphere that I was living in. In Rome a part of the fans treated me very badly and I can’t understand why it went like this. I gave my all for the Roma shirt and I was treated badly by a group of the fans"
- Osvaldo on his exit from Roma
Roma on the other hand lose a quality forward and their top scorer for the past two seasons but at the same time a player who did not waste time in polarizing the dressing room during his time with the club. His goals and presence up front will be missed but the negatives completely outweighed the positives. Add to that the uber-cool sum that they receive for a striker they bought for two million euros cheaper a couple of seasons ago.
Italy on the other hand, could benefit a lot going into the next World Cup if at all the striker settles down well in England. That, Osvaldo is Prandelli’s deputy to Mario Balotelli is no secret but if there is anything that’s been keeping him from calling the tall forward regularly to the national scene, it’s his behaviour. But Prandelli’s ‘no-discipline, no-selection’ policy has worked well with Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi and it could help Osvaldo mature and realize his true potential. A ‘mentally’ fit Osvaldo provides Italy with another sharp tooth upfront to play second-fiddle to Balotelli - someone who guarantees goals, if provided with proper service.
It’s not as if he was just a player famous for the numerous controversies that kept him in news during his two years in Rome. Had it not been for his goals, Roma could have fallen even further and there is no denying the fact that he was their best forward for as long as he put on their jersey. Usually a controversy was followed by goals on the field, only to be followed by another mishap and that did it for him.
Having never spent more than two seasons at a single club, AS Roma join the likes of Atalanta, Lecce, Fiorentina, Bologna and Espanyol, Osvaldo has called home since 2006. Still only 27 and immensely talented, he still has time to grow up and probably live up to the hype he generates outside of the stadium rather than being a fodder for the English media that awaits him.
But as far Roma and their fans are concerned, you bet there isn’t a single Giallorossi supporter who must not have welcomed his departure and muttered, “Goodbye and Good riddance, Pablo! “