Back at the beginning of the 2012-13 Serie A season, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo was gearing up to establish himself as one of the peninsula’s best strikers. He was well loved by the Roma fans and had the passion, style and fiery character that goes down well in the capital city. The Argentine-born forward even got away with replicating Gabriel Batistuta’s infamous machine gun goal celebration.
Fast forward to his last weeks in a Giallorosso shirt and he was being booed and insulted by a very vocal section of the support. Just a few days before his move to Southampton, Osvaldo tweeted a photo of a pavement outside his home where someone had written ‘Osvaldo a piece of s***’. “How sad…” was his response.
And during his official unveiling as a new Premiership player, he noted: “Leaving Roma for Southampton wasn't difficult, not at all. In fact, from the moment I signed, I was relieved…”
So how did it come to this? Despite being the team’s preferred striker, and often paired with the creative Francesco Totti and Erik Lamela, a combination of injuries, suspensions and a lack of cold blood saw him score 28 goals in two seasons. Not enough for the main striker in a team manned by attack-minded Coaches such as Luis Enrique and, in particular, Zdenek Zeman.
Osvaldo is unpredictable both on and off the pitch, but seldom in a way which made the fans sing his praises. For every bicycle kick against Catania, there were three red cards, dressing room arguments and insults hurled at staff and supporters alike. The fans, however, still recognised his talent and the squad as a whole continued to support him.
Teammate Daniele De Rossi and Italy boss Cesare Prandelli have been two of the Osvaldo’s most strident supporters. The Azzurri CT has continued to call him up even after he was dropped for the Confederations Cup. A “champion” was what Prandelli described him as, while the midfielder noted that his friend was a “good lad” who would be a big loss for Roma if sold.
Despite the backing, Osvaldo made his exit inevitable. The final die in his Roma career was cast when he stopped club legend Totti from taking a penalty at Sampdoria, which he then missed, and then called interim Coach Aurelio Andreazzoli “incompetent” following a Cup Final loss to Lazio. Osvaldo seemed determined to burn every bridge and responded to jeers at training by telling fans he would take each of them on “one after the other”.
Both Roma and Osvaldo have now paid the price for such behaviour. The club has had to settle for an initial fee of about £13m for an Italian international, whereas Osvaldo has had to join a club on an inferior level to La Magica. Roma will feel particularly unlucky as the main benefactor of the move, striker Mattia Destro, is suffering from a long-term injury and the sale has left a gaping hole in their front line.
For Osvaldo, however, the move to Southampton could see him get back to his scoring best. The forward, who has played for eight clubs since 2005, should be able to thrive in a lower pressure environment like he did for Espanyol and could once again command the attention of Europe’s biggest teams. He has the talent, but does he have the temperament?