Ninety seconds after being brought on as a sub for Fernando Llorente, Juventus new boy Dani Osvaldo nearly scored with his second touch. He timed his run superbly, collected a perfect pass from Andrea Pirlo, left his marker stranded and sprung Verona’s offside trap. In less time than it takes a cobra to strike he was then bearing down on ‘keeper Rafael, rounded him and fired in an angled drive that skimmed the far post. Five minutes later he had another shot blocked before having a goal disallowed not for any fault of his own but due to Kwadwo Asamoah, who delivered the ball, being ruled offside.
Not a bad 25-minute cameo for one of the supposed crazy characters of calcio, who showed, at least in that game, that he can work with Carlos Tevez. The question is, will he prove to be the Argentinean’s best partner? More importantly will he prove to be right for Juve?
Certainly Juve’s former transfer guru Luciano Moggi feels he will on all counts. “He’s a good buy, he may be useful in finishing the team’s play and I see a fight between him and Llorente for the starting spot,” the controversial figure has said of late. “Maybe he can create some problems in the process of inclusion in the group, but Antonio Conte will be able to manage him.”
Moggi of course hit the nail on the head as more than a few eyebrows were raised when Coach Conte first showed interest. But, did they rise any higher when he approved the arrival of those other two ‘bad boys’ Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba from England? Perhaps both arrived amid doubts, but no-one can argue with their success. If anyone can sort Osvaldo out it is Conte and his senatori in the dressing room - captain Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Giorgio Chiellini.
It’s not as if Conte doesn’t know him, first spotting his potential when he shone for Lecce in the second part of the 2006-07 season and he has reportedly wanted him ever since.
Of course with Tevez and Llorente ahead of him plus Fabio Quagliarella, Seb Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic, he may find that games are hard to come by, which in turn could lead to frustration. Sadly we all know what ensues when that happens. One of the many reasons Roma got rid of him included slapping former teammate Erik Lamela in the face for not passing to him when they played Udinese. He also had frequent arguments with then Giallorosso boss Andrea Andreazzoli, who then publicly criticised him for continuously ‘moaning and whining’. In the end he proved to be more trouble than he was worth.
Off he went to the Premier League to link up with his old Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton. However, despite some excellent performances he could not keep his head down there either. In December he was banned for three matches and fined £40,000 for a major part in a touchline clash against Newcastle. A month later he allegedly head-butted teammate Jose Fonte in training, was suspended by the club and told that he would never play for them again.
Given this sinister aspect of character, should Juventus have taken a chance on him? On the plus side he has taken a massive wage cut to play on loan for Juve and is undoubtedly a talented player, someone who can turn nothing into something. Apart from anything else he unnerves opponents, bearing down on them like a cross between Khal Drogo and Alex out of Clockwork Orange. Furthermore he now has time to gel with the rest of the team in line for next season, if he stays. Certainly if Juve are to make any impression on the Champions League they will need at least three top strikers performing at their best.
The bottom line is that if you want a great player you sometimes need to put up with his idiosyncrasies because that’s what drives them. And if he can temper his character he could be a very worthwhile buy and his obvious skill will outweigh his obvious flaws. As one of Juve’s best strikers of the modern era Gianluca Vialli said: “The Old Lady will be useful for him as well and help him grow from all points of view.”