If you were to guess a player based only on their red card history, and were then given a record of five dismissals in 82 League games, your first thought is unlikely to be that of a striker.
But Pablo Osvaldo’s stunning ability to collect red cards means he is the proud owner of that record – an astonishing effort for a striker and one that sees him get sent off an average of once every 17 games, or twice per season.
It is an issue that seems to have escalated this year. Three of that five have come while playing for the Giallorossi, and his record for the club in all competitions is four reds in 38 games, all of which have been in 2012, with his latest coming last week in the Coppa Italia match at home to Atalanta. If you include his sending off for Italy against Denmark in October he has a remarkable total of five red cards for 2012 alone.
The concern is that so many of his dismissals arise through completely brainless acts – his one last Tuesday, for elbowing Carlos Matheu, one of a string of needless offences. Against Denmark it was for handing off Nicolai Stokholm in the face after he had released the ball – possibly harsh, but at international level there is only one outcome from that behaviour if the referee sees it.
In February he was sent off versus Atalanta, again, for having a sly kick out at Luca Cigarini with about seven yards distance between him and the official. Two months later he received a straight red card for dissent in a match with Fiorentina – and not for the first time. He was sent off in 2009 while playing for the Viola after receiving two yellow cards within 30 seconds. The first he took for the team when tactically fouling to stop a counter-attack, but the senseless second arrived after too much chat with referee Paolo Mazzoleni.
Apart from the obvious damage it causes to his team in that particular game, and the subsequent games he misses for his actions, is the potential it has to hold him back at international level.
Antonio Cassano’s absence from the squad means there is a space open to partner Mario Balotelli in attack, and Osvaldo could well be at the head of the queue given his goals record for Italy to date, though with Balotelli still considered something of a liability – his disciplinary record at Man City last season is in the headlines after he took the club to tribunal for the fine they gave him – picking two strikers with a propensity for cards is something Cesare Prandelli has to consider.
Of course if he wants to move to the back of the queue, then carrying the ability to pick up red cards at club level on to the international scene is certainly a good way of going about it.