Pablo Osvaldo: Italian Expert On Tottenham's Next Bad Boy Striker...
While his AS Roma team-mates were slogging it out in the Rome derby on Monday evening Pablo Daniel Osvaldo was living it up in London.
The striker may have been suspended for the game but his club expected him to attend the big showdown against bitter rivals Lazio as a demonstration of moral support but the maverick Ital-Argentine decided that he would take his new flame the Argentine actress Jimena Baron for a pint as far away from the Derby della Capitale as possible.
The 27-year-old may have found some satisfaction after a period of what can be only described as a “complicated” private life, having split from his long-term partner Elena Braccini who was pregnant with the couple’s second child.
However, he certainly feels that Roma fans have fallen out of love with him and he was obviously testing out the delights of London in anticipation of a possible move.
Osvaldo has already turned down a reported switch to Spartak Moscow and now Tottenham’s name has been the one most touted around the Italian press as Roma seek to recoup a fair percentage of 16.2million euro they paid Espanyol in the summer of 2011.
The Buenos Aires native, who claims Italian citizenship through his great grandfather, may have been well versed in football in the old country, having played for Atalanta, Lecce, Fiorentina and Bologna but those were the relative backwaters compared to Rome which was always going to test the boundaries of how far his wild streak would be allowed to run free.
In a city where footballers soar from “the stars to the gutter” - as the local saying goings - from one game to the next, his penchant for stunning goals and petulance in equal measure had all the makings for a rollercoaster ride.
A spectacular start under then coach Luis Enrique, scoring in each of first four matches including one in the derby, turned the Johnny Depp lookalike into an instant hero.
Decked out in the same garb as the Pirates of the Caribbean star, right down to the goatee and dropdown spectacles, he may have felt he was living the dream but the warning signings of becoming something of a caricature on the pitch as well were also beginning to manifest themselves.
When the goals started to dry up, Osvaldo became a loose cannon, picking up needless yellow cards for berating officials and as opposition defenders worked out he as easy to wind up as an antique clock so he became less of a team-player and more of the lone ranger.
A dressing room bust-up with Erik Lamela after a defeat at Udinese arose from the fact that Osvaldo accused his young compatriot, who was making something of a name for himself as a major talent, of deliberately not passing the ball to him when he was in goalscoring positions.
Lamela was reported to have responded with the ultimate putdown for any Argentine player: “You’re not Maradona” to which Osvaldo replied in true macho style by punching the lippy upstart- although insiders have said it was a slap.
A fine and suspension followed and Francesco Totti, who generally maintains a lofty distance from dressing room politics, was forced to organize one his famous bonding dinners to restore some semblance of unity.
Osvaldo did, however, find a kindred spirit in Daniele De Rossi, who was also swimming in the fishbowl of Roman whispers, where his private life was also the centre of much speculation.
In fact, the pair became someone of the cause célèbre for the disenchanted when they were dropped by Zdenek Zeman following the 4-1 humbling at Juventus back in October.
Zeman’s sacking restored De Rossi to the starting line-up yet the frontman who scored two contenders for goal of the season in the first two outings of the season – a stunning bicycle-kick on the opening day against Catania and a sublime chip at Inter which would have sent the whole of the Europe into raptures had it been scored by Leo Messi, never regained his swagger.
Rumours began to surface that Roma were growing tired of his boorish behaviour and were ready to offload him back to Spain and then there was the threat of losing his Italy place as the coach Cesare Prandelli decided it would be better to invest his efforts in turning Osvaldo’s team-mate Mattia Destro into the main striker.
What really sealed Osvaldo’s fate and sent him into a downward spiral was a baffling incident in February at Sampdoria.
Zeman had been shown the door and in interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli’s first game in charge with the team trailing 1-0, a penalty decision offered a lifeline back into the game but rather than allow Totti to take the spot-kick as has had been the norm for the last decade or so, Osvaldo strode up and to the horror of his team-mates tamely rolled the ball to goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
His subsequent plea that he was “just trying to help the team” had all the making of the little boy lost syndrome and from that moment he has been on the outside looking in
For all his ups and downs and cod psychology on the need to be “loved and understood” Osvaldo is still a natural goalscorer combining pace, power and the ability to finish with either foot or to grab the odd headed goal.
He netted 11 times last season, in a campaign where Roma struggled to find the net and despite his recent lack of playing time he has hit the same amount again although the last goal was back in January.
The club have decided to take a softly-softly approach and are instead inviting interested parties to table their bids ahead of the summer rush – and you never know Osvaldo may end up sharing a pint with Spurs fans come the start of next season.