Osvaldo: From sinner to Saint

Posted by Ben Gladwell

Pablo Daniel Osvaldo's tumultuous stay at Roma came to an end this week as he joined Southampton -- it came as little surprise that he fired a parting shot on his way out of the Stadio Olimpico.

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The Italy international ended a tortuous two-season spell in the Eternal City by joining the Saints for a fee believed to be in the region of £15 million, plus bonuses, but he was never going to miss an opportunity to criticise the fans who he claimed forced him out of Italy.

"I couldn’t wait to get out of Rome, I could't cope anymore," Osvaldo said. "I left because I couldn't stand the atmosphere I was living in anymore. Some of the fans in Rome treated me really badly and I don't understand why things went that way."

Escapades on and off the pitch soured Osvaldo's relationship with fans of the Giallorossi. He was in their bad books after just a year with the club for throwing a punch at team-mate Erik Lamela, but stealing a penalty from club legend Francesco Totti, and missing it, was an unforgivable act in their eyes.

Roma lost 3-1 to Sampdoria on that day in February 2013, and Osvaldo's career with the Giallorossi was effectively over. "Everybody's going to turn their back on me now, but I'm going to move on," said the Argentina-born forward. His club needed only to find somewhere to move him on to.

That proved more difficult than they first thought. In spite of the fans' ill-feeling -- and they did not hold back in making it clear to Osvaldo that he had outstayed his welcome with banners and chants as well as the throwing of stones and eggs at his car -- Osvaldo appeared reluctant to join any of the clubs proposed to him, including Southampton.

When a conversation between the club's director of sport Walter Sabatini and director Claudio Fenucci was leaked, it became clear that not only the fans had seen enough of the 27-year-old. As disillusioned as they were, the feeling was mutual.

"I gave everything for the Roma shirt," Osvaldo said upon arriving in the sanctity of Southampton. "In Rome, too many people are influenced by what they hear on the radio or read in the newspapers. They made me the scapegoat; everything was my fault.

"It wasn't hard for me to change scenery. I'm delighted to be here. My partner and I have been looking for a home for the past three months and we're very pleased with this decision."

When he woke up on the morning of his first night in the city, he was not met with graffitti scrawled on the pavement demanding he leave, nor was he greeted by a tirade of insults as he headed for his first training session. There were no unwelcome banners hanging on the fences of St. Mary's either.

That chapter of his life is now closed and Osvaldo is looking to write the next one in a career that has seen him score double figures in each of the past three seasons. The Premier League, a dream and a promise beckons. And however tempting it may be to claim that Southampton is hardly a step up in his career, he begs to differ.

"There were three reasons why I chose Southampton: Firstly, they are the club who wanted me the most," he said at his official unveiling as a Premier League player. "Then, I’m delighted to work with [Mauricio] Pochettino again. He's a great motivator and for me it's very important to work with people who appreciate and respect how I work, which is what I’ve lacked in recent years.

"I hope, with him, that I can get back to the level I was at with Espanyol. And finally, I like the idea of playing in the Premier League. It was always a dream of mine to measure myself in this league."

He followed that comment with another thinly veiled attack on Italian football. "For somebody who comes from Spain and Italy, it's fantastic the respect there is in this country towards players."

Osvaldo has not turned his back on Italian football completely, however. The national team of his adopted home remains his utmost priority, though he expects to be jeered if he plays in the Italian capital again, even in an Azzurri shirt.

"I love Italy because it’s a country which accepted me like its child and I'm happy there," he said. "The same applies for the national team. I hope I can now rediscover the serenity I had lost recently and take my chance as well I can. The Italy shirt means a lot to me."

So too, apparently, does the Southampton shirt No. 17, with which Osvaldo will be hoping to secure his place at the World Cup next summer by letting his goals do the talking.

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