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Pablo Osvaldo's Fire Rises

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Paolo Bruno

"She was beautiful, but she was beautiful in the way a forest fire was beautiful."

I don't have a facebook account, a twitter, or actively partake in any social media of any kind. I do, however, hold a tumblr account. Not a page, but a lurker account. I lurk. I creep. I creep like a creeptastic creeper. I like nice pictures, pretty pictures, the visual aesthetic. Given my tastes, a psychological profile based solely off those I follow would lead one to believe I'm a shallow, dysthymic, insecure fourteen year old girl who thinks all her worldly issues can be solved by Alber Elbaz. Normally this is the spot for self-deprecating humor via jesting confirmation; honestly couldn't be farther from the truth. When quotes filter through the feed, nine times out of ten, I couldn't possibly relate. I just like pretty things. I don't fucking understand you or your emotions, so here, have a blank stare of confusion and condescension. Smile.

The quote above filters through from time to time, inbetwixt shots of [insert Borriello model-ex here] sporting the aforementioned Alber and a Lightshop'd photo - bless VSCO - of some desolate urban landscape someone has determined is "art" via an accumulation of likes bestowed upon it by an unknowing populus.

This one. This one I get, if only when taken out of context.

This is Pablo.

We've done this before, and recently, too. We've discussed Pablo. We've analyzed Pablo and arrived at a brilliantly objective, scientifically-sound theory. In abstract: "Damn, boy - he crazy."

He be indeed.

Most people have probably dated a Pablo. A lot of people probably were a Pablo in their teenage years, no matter how hard one might attempt to deny it. That time with the thing at the place with your friends and that other person? Yeah, you were a Pablo. Maybe you're still a Pablo. Get away from me.

[Interjection: I'm sitting on a bar stool with my laptop on an overturned bookcase as I rearrange to accommodate a new desk while I drink chocolate milk with coffee ice cubes. It's 2am. God, maybe I'm Pablo. I digress.]

The summer has seen Pablo being Pablo. Granted he's taken his fair share of flak, but the man's tongue knows no sheath. Neither does his middle finger or that other thing. (You know.) He's declined Southampton. Good for him. I don't know where Southampton is (below Northampton?) and even I know I don't want to go there. Roma wants that money. Pablo doesn't want that life. I respect that decision. Holding out for the same Manchester City which has seemingly purchased every striker on the planet not named Pablo? Mmmmm. More difficult quest for validation, that'un.

There are, as it stands, two questions:

a. Should Pablo stay?

2. How much is he worth?

Both of these are spectrums. Let's handle them in reverse order.

2. As a footballer, Pablo Osvaldo is worth somewhere between 15-20m euros. Fair assessment? I think so. I have nothing to base this on but my own eye, yet that's good enough for me. He's a good striker, but not a great one, behavioral issues and affinity for a touch of the old rouge notwithstanding. The man can score a pretty goal, but his movement and play outside the box leaves an incredible amount to be desired. All of it, really. The last three years, he's on 0.48 goals per game. He's nothing spectacular, particularly given he's a sunk cost in every other aspect of the sport. Simply because Roma hasn't had a bomber in the last years outside of the inimitable Totti doesn't make him great. (He and German Denis are on par statistically - German's scored four more goals in the last two years, however, because he behaves himself. Harumph.)

Now, to assess his value as an employee, member of a group, and teammate? Negative five million. He's toxic. His teammates may like him, but that doesn't dismiss the controversy he courts or simple fact he makes going about their jobs more difficult, and that's the hallmark of a poor employee. You may throw the best office parties and I'm damn sure Pablo does, but that doesn't mean the rest of their hours are more pleasant because you aren't up to snuff in other areas.

This leaves him at somewhere between 10 and 15m, which is precisely what teams not named Southampton have been offering. Southampton having to toss in that premium because they're, well, Southampton and located in Southampton. Roma would probably like more, but it's probably not happening. There is a cost to Pablo Osvaldo beyond his goals.

a. And therein lies the difficulty. As a footballer, sure, keep him. Fine. He's less talented all 'round than Mattia Destro, but Senor Wonky Knees doesn't appear to be all that health-reliable at the moment, while no one in Rome loved Marco Borriello enough to bring him to the United States for a little vacation and late-night, "OH MY GOD CAN I HAVE YOUR BABIES?!?!?!" at the club from the outset. (I would ask more politely than the caps might indicate, I swear.) Alberto Gilardino? There are far worse squad members out there for a club with fantasies of Europa. As your one and only prima punta should Mattia Destro go down? Color me nonplussed. I like the movement of Rudi's rascals so far, and it certainly wafts in a nostalgic whiff of Luciano, but I'm not ready to go to war with Francesco at the top of the formation just yet. Nothing to do with him, but a too-many-cooks thing: Erik, Miralem, Kevin, assuming Bonus Forehead...everybody wants the ball, not to run without it. Also not looking forward to Chef Gervinho burn cold cereal every weekend.) This ain't your Mancini/Mirko, Simone, Rodrigo trequartista line. These boys want to ball.

But the cost. The cost of keeping Pablo Osvaldo can't be measured in goals lost, money foregone, or anything even remotely quantifiable. There will be a red card. There will be a suspension. There will be a tantrum or several. The cost. What is the cost?

Nothing has changed this summer. He's still combative, antagonistic, and while seemingly likable on a personal basis, a lightning rod for controversy. He's still Osvaldo first, everything else second. He is still...Pablo. And therein lies the problem.

There's one move in my time as a Roma fan which has shaken the walls, and that was this little child from Bari. One move and one move alone since that time has forced me to truly perk up and take notice to this level, based upon individual ability and degree to which his piece adds to the puzzle. It's Kevin Strootman. This has a little to do with transfer fees and more to do with the needs he eradicates and philosophy. Roma's been calling, begging, pleading for a midfielder who can pass and defend for years now, taking some of the pressure off DDR. Got him. And while I love listening to Miralem Pjanic play the consummate professional, even enjoying it as he dismisses the fans and praises a friend, no matter who signs his checks, Kevin Strootman is a class of athlete Roma hasn't had in a long time. He's a born leader, a born captain. The man will earn his fair share of cards, but his influence on the pitch is palpable. His interviews could be used to conduct a seminar, if not a full semester course. He is everything you want to build the ethos of your club around. The armband may already have DDR's name engraved in stone as next, but Strootman makes one think twice. And for a club which has lacked so desperately a strong mental fortitude for years, this is the direction I want Roma. I like Kevin. I like Maicon. Hell, I like Mehdi Benatia. To grossly paraphrase, "I gave Roma my word, and that was that." Love that. They're signing athletes, but they're signing, above all, professionals. They don't need. They just play, whatever the circumstance. It's a different club they're constructing. It's a different mindset. That's not the case for Pablo.

Now Inter is in on him. Perhaps Napoli, too. As players move and the clock edges closer to midnight of the transfer deadline, plenty of teams will want a good striker. Plenty will want Pablo. Plenty will be willing to live with a Pablo. What's changed now is Roma doesn't have to. They are building a team designed to win now. They do not need to live with a Pablo to cushion the teething of the youth. They don't need Pablo anymore. They need someone who just...plays.

Pablo's said he needs love. He needs confidence, needs to be wanted, needs to be reassured. He needs. He needs. One might even say he burns for it.

We'd love to watch you burn from afar.