We started our Reliving Roma series back in November with a look back at Mattia Destro’s brief but illustrious career with the Giallorossi. What was really born out of my in-no-way-objective-love for Mr. Right soon morphed into a convenient excuse to look back, both fondly and regrettably, at the first nine decades of Associazone Sportiva Roma. While we’ve touched upon everyone from John Arne Riise to Simplicio to Alberto Aquilani, I’m afraid we’ve been remiss in our duties. We’re several months into this celebration and we haven’t even whispered this man’s name....
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo!
PDO, everyone’s favorite Italian-Argentine-Johnny Depp-wannabe-hybrid, burned brightly for Roma, scoring 30 goals (all comps) across two seasons, thrilling us with his technique, athleticism and aerial ability and confounding us with his inconsistency, his attitude and a penchant for whipping out his pablito during training sessions when he was feeling particularly randy.
For awhile it looked like PDO would steal Marco Borriello’s crown as the sexiest man in Serie A, tallying goals and trysts in equal measure, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, as with all things AS Roma, there is beauty in the breakdown, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive the highs and lows.
In keeping with Osvaldo’s rocker persona, we’ll tackle his career with a little help from Neil Young, whose two part opus Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) and My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue) perfectly encapsulates Osvaldo’s Roma career, though we’re presenting them in somewhat reverse order.
Incidentally, if you consider yourself a fan of rock music and haven’t given Mr. Young a real listen, what the hell are you waiting for? His influence on all manners of folk, hard rock, grunge and even punk is immeasurable.
The Beginning: You Pay For This, But They Give You That
Look at the crowd there, have you ever seen a group of people have more fun? And the mullets! My god, the mullets! Look at the 2:00 to 2:05 mark, that’s everyone’s dad ever. The mustache, the cheap haircut, the beer in the paper Coca Cola cup, the Hendrix t-shirt tucked into his stonewashed jeans. What do you think he’s up to now? Is he alive? Who’s his favorite driver? Does he have Van Halen’s 1984 on cassette? Christ, I could write a whole post about him.
PDO came to Roma from RCD Espanyol during the summer of 2011 for a hefty fee of €15 million. After scoring 21 goals in all competitions for Espanyol between 2009 and 2011, PDO was meant to be the point atop Luis Enrique’s tiki taka spear, the final flourish after all the incessant sideways passing between Miralem Pjanic, Erik Lamela and the club’s other two dozen new signings that summer. (Seriously, remember how many new players they brought in that summer? Pjanic, Lamela, Heinze, Kjaer, Bojan, Borini, Stekelenburg...Roma was practically an expansion team.)
Osvaldo would make an immediate impact on his new club, not to mention Lamela’s face, during his first season in the Eternal City. With 11 goals and four assists in league play, PDO’s debut season was pretty solid, as was the fist with which he struck Lamela in training, after Coco apparently didn’t pass him the ball enough.
But that was Pablo, crazy, mixed-up Pablo Osvaldo, a rockstar in his own mind, a man to whom the rules did not apply. Despite those antics, Osvaldo would actually blossom in his second season with Roma, grabbing 16 league goals under Zdenek Zeman’s stewardship. Things were looking up. He wasn’t a textbook striker by any means, but he had a knack for finding the back of the net and was quickly becoming a fan favorite.
Those good feelings wouldn’t last, however, as PDO’s Roma career came to an ignominious end, with Osvaldo shouting obscenities at interim manager Aurelio Andreazzoli after a disappointing 15 minute cameo against Lazio in 2013’s soul crushing Coppa Italia finale. The nail was officially put in the coffin when Osvaldo refused to, out of “protest”, attend a club ceremony/celebration afterwards.
It was a perfect prima donna ending.
The Ending: There’s More to The Picture Than Meets The Eye
Well, we pretty much said it, huh? On the pitch, Osvaldo was exciting and effective, providing goals at the ready, linking up with everyone from Lamela to Pjanic to Totti and even Borriello to propel the Lupi attack.
However, despite those goals, PDO’s prima donna tendencies ultimately got the best of him, as his tantrums unfortunately (for him) coincided with Mattia Destro’s rise to Roman fame. Mr. Right’s torrid form ultimately made it easier for Roma to move on from Osvaldo, who made the switch to the Premiership in the summer of 2013, signing on for a four-year hitch with Southampton.
PDO’s time in England was cut short, though, having his contract canceled after the 2014-2015 season. From there, Osvaldo went on a parade of loans, plying his trade for Juventus, Inter Milan, Boca Juniors, Porto and Boca Juniors once more.
For a variety of reasons, Osvaldo never again experienced the highs of his halcyon days with Roma. From 30 goals in two seasons with Roma, Osvaldo never even cracked double digits for a single club, reaching his nadir during a one-goal campaign with Porto in 2015-2016. After a brief second stint with Boca Juniors, during which he scored seven goals in 22 appearances, Osvaldo retired to focus on his music career.
Osvaldo was never meant to rewrite history, but his two year stint with Roma was epic. From his tattoos to his machine gun celebration to his general Pirates of the Caribbean lifestyle, PDO was a fan favorite, and what’s more, he had the talent to back it up. Osvaldo was a one-man wrecking crew—strong, brash, clinical and quick. Several seasons of 15 to 20 goals wasn’t out of the question. He had it all, the world was at his feet...and it fucked it up, royally.
But what can we say?
It’s better to burn out than fade away....