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Poetry, rock music and Maradona - a profile of Saints' new superstar, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
He agrees with Eric Cantona launching a ‘kung-fu’ style kick into the crowd. He used to live in Lanus, where Diego Armando Maradona was born. He looks like Johnny Depp. He loves Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, so much so that his Twitter name is @danistone25. Somehow, champions and mavericks seem to clutter Pablo Daniel Osvaldo’s life.
‘Dani’ chose a picture of the Rolling Stones as his background on the social network site. “I’d like to set up a music band and play properly one day,” he said.
Although he never considered the possibility of not making it, if he wasn’t a footballer he says he would be a musician or a writer. His two favourite artists are Spanish anti-Francoist poet Joaquin Sabina and French literary critic Frédéric Beigbeder.
Osvaldo loves Sabina because “he risked his life because of an ideal,” while he loves Beigbeder because “he believes in speed and that if you are not sure about tomorrow, you just have to run”.
Self-sacrifice and pace are definitely two qualities one should expect from the striker.
The reason he will embrace his former manager at Espanyol should be viewed as another indicator as to why his relationship with the Saints should work. Mauricio Pochettino was the first to believe in him.
After touring Italy from Bergamo (Atalanta) to Bologna, via Lecce and Florence, a young Osvaldo had to go to Barcelona to show what he was made of. He scored 20 goals in 44 appearances in two stints with Espanyol between 2009 and 2011.
In Spain, he fulfilled one of his dreams – playing a guitar in Plaça de Catalunya without people recognising him.
“Simplicity is fascinating,” he says, and that’s another one of the reasons his relationship with Southampton could work out just fine.
In Italy, and specifically in Rome, it was impossible to be ‘whoever’ for Osvaldo. Fans would always spot him and ask for an autograph or a picture. His Depp-esque appearance would always drive him out.
But England – as other footballers like Gianluca Vialli have noted in the past – has the power to let footballers live their everyday lives without being harassed all the time.
All this love was partly reciprocated by Osvaldo on the pitch and off it, where he was enjoying Rome’s La Dolce Vita for a while. A slap to Tottenham target Erik Lamela was the only bitter incident in his first season (Lamela allegedly told him that he was no Maradona). But, in the last few months, things had spiralled into hatred.
Roma fans never forgave him for flying to London before a derby match, for which he was in fact suspended. Osvaldo just wanted to unplug and enjoy time with his new girlfriend, actress and singer Jimena Baron, but in the fans’ eyes he wasn’t meant to do so during one of the most important fixtures of the year.
He then convincingly told them to 'f*** off' during pre-season, but captain Francesco Totti let him take a penalty in a friendly against Turkish side Bursaspor in order to make his own point of view clear, despite the same Osvaldo taking the ball off Totti’s hands and then missing a penalty in February against Sampdoria.
A few seasons ago, such a gesture would have persuaded the club to keep hold of Osvaldo, but the new Roma is not as keen on relying on their captain’s views anymore.
This summer, director of football Walter Sabatini left his telephone on after a short interview with a local journalist, who was left recording the whole ensuing conversation amongst Roma executives about their transfer market activity. In order to persuade Osvaldo to leave, Sabatini explained that he wanted the player to come to Trigoria - their training base - so that the fans could insult him too.
Last week, a supporter wrote something offensive on the pavement beneath Osvaldo’s house. Osvaldo and his girlfriend Jimena took to Twitter to comment on the episode.
“I don’t understand fans insulting players for the sake of it,” he once said, hence his admiration for Cantona’s gesture. Things were just starting to become suffocating.
“I hate the absence of balance,” he had previously stated.“In Italy one day you are the best in the world, the next you have to be sent to the stake.”
The fresh air of Southampton and the Premier League might be just what he needs to live better, and consequently perform better, on the pitch. If, as he says, his main target is enjoying while playing (“if you don’t, then you have already lost”), the English league is just the place to be.
Federico Farcomeni is an Italian sports journalist who is based in London.
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