While Inter has been busy wrapping up some rather savvy deals midway through the transfer window, one vacancy stands out above the rest: a striker. With only two proven goal scoring forwards on the squad, and a season in which we'll be competing on three fronts, an extra target man is of utmost importance.
One name that's been coming up rather frequently is Pablo Daniel Osvaldo. According to the Corriere, Inter have already agreed on personal terms with the Argentine-born Italy international, with Sky claiming that Mazzarri has given his approval. This is not the first time we've been linked to him, as our coach appears to be a huge fan, and his current club Southampton (where he's been AWOL from training) represents a highly motivated seller. Something about this feels like it's likely to happen. Nonetheless, I believe signing Osvaldo would be a catastrophically bad idea for the club, and I've put together some reasons why, in convenient list form.
1. He's Mad, Bad...
In his career, Osvaldo has achieved a pretty amazing statistic for a striker: he's been sent off nine times. He has more total red cards than Pepe, Ryan Shawcross, Joey Barton, and Mark Van Bommel, all of whom at least have the excuse of being supervillains by design. He has as many red cards as Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano combined. He's gotten red cards in league matches, cup matches and World Cup qualifiers, but one thing is constant: Almost all of them were pointless. He's been sent off twice for dissent, once for a goal celebration, and the others for flagrant elbows, slaps and kicks. He managed to avoid his tenth red card when he started a massive touchline brawl during a Southampton-Newcastle match last winter - probably because he wasn't even playing at the time - but it seems only a matter of time before he attains his personal La Decima.
2. ...and Dangerous to Know
While his red card history is worrying, sometimes a team needs a guy who's willing to go out there and be an enforcer, getting dirty for the sake of his team. Yet Osvaldo seems to save his worst vitriol for his teammates. While at Roma, he slapped Erik Lamela in the locker room for failing to pass him the ball. He fought with a teammate at Bologna in the middle of training. While at Southampton, he head-butted a teammate during an argument, hurting him enough to draw serious blood. He also publicly argued with then-Roma manager Aurelio Andreazzoli, and later accused him of being a Lazio fan on Twitter.
3. Pablo Was a Rolling Stone
Since starting his senior career in 2005, Osvaldo has played for nine different clubs in a matter of nine years, only one of which managed to tolerate him for two full seasons. When he joined Southampton, his 15 million transfer fee was the largest in the club's history. That might not sound like much to us, but we're still talking about a record signing for them here; Osvaldo was Southampton's Ronaldo, their Bale, their Vieri. Imagine the largest investment you've ever made in your life - you would work pretty hard to protect it and make sure you hadn't wasted your money, right? Yet within four months, Southampton was looking to loan him out, and did. Half a year after that, they're desperate to sell him.
There are more red flags here than the Beijing Olympics.
4. He's Really Not All That Great
Osvaldo certainly has skills. I'm not denying that. He's fantastic in the air and has a delicate touch, scoring some lovely chips and exhibiting smart control of difficult balls. But just looking at goals scored, he hasn't been outrageously impressive. And he's had a particularly poor time of things over the last year, scoring just three goals with Southampton, and three with Juve. (Of his Juve goals, two came in Europa League matches against the mighty Trabzonspor, and the other was a penalty.)
He's had three good seasons, one with Espanyol, and then two subsequently with Roma. His best goal tally came in the 2012-13 season, when he scored 16 league goals. However, 11 of those came under the management of Zdenek Zeman, perhaps the most striker-friendly, suicidally attack-minded manager in the last decade of Serie A. With more disciplined, conservative coaches, he's been far less successful. And Mazzarri is pretty much the prototype of a disciplined, conservative coach.
5. His Goal Celebrations Give Me the Creeps
This might be a minor point, but there's something disturbing to me about Osvaldo's history of celebration swagger-jacking.
Gabriel Batistuta was one of the most beloved players in Fiorentina's history, and he was famous for celebrating goals by pretending to machine-gun the supporters. While he was a Viola player, Osvaldo celebrated his first goal against Juve by mimicking Batistuta's gesture exactly. (Worth mentioning: He was sent off for doing this.)
Francesco Totti is by far the most beloved player in Roma's history, and he famously celebrated a goal against Lazio by revealing a t-shirt that read: "Vi ho purgato ancora" (I just purged you again.) When Osvaldo scored his first Roma goal against Lazio, he celebrated by revealing a t-shirt that read: "Vi ho purgato anch'io!" (I just purged you too!). (Worth mentioning: Roma would go on to lose this match.)
Being charitable, you could say this is all due to a halfway pathetic, halfway endearing desire to be loved by fans by directly copying their heroes. But it feels like something out of "The Talented Mr. Ripley." I wouldn't be at all surprised if Totti once went to the Roma locker room late at night, and walked in on Osvaldo strutting around in front of the mirror with a No. 10 shirt.
6. He Doesn't Know His Place
Speaking of Totti, in addition to being the undisputed captain of the team, Totti is also one of the best penalty takers Serie A has seen in decades. Not only does he have the final say in who takes penalties, he's also the one that logic would dictate ought to take them. This seems obvious to everyone but Osvaldo, who tried to cut in line and take a penalty while Roma was down by a single goal to Sampdoria. After an awkward discussion around the spot, Totti said "whatever" and let him have it. Osvaldo scuffed it badly, and Roma went on to lose.
Osvaldo apologized for this, but his reasoning was revealing. "I just felt the need to take it," he said, "sometimes a goal helps you get back your self-confidence, and that's what's missing for me right now." His team was losing, with a great chance to draw level, but for Osvaldo the important thing was his own self-confidence.
7. He'll Make Ranocchia's Life Hell
Speaking of penalty shenanigans, remember way back in 2009, when Balotelli won a spot kick against Palermo? Samuel Eto'o was the designated penalty taker, but when he stepped up to the spot, Balotelli refused to let him take it, and an argument ensued. It was an embarrassing little tantrum, which ended when Javier Zanetti had to walk over and lead Mario away by the hand like a child.
Zanetti's authority was so total that even a selfish egomaniac like Balotelli knew better than to question it. I was never too nervous when the club signed foul-tempered, individualistic players in the past, because we had not only Zanetti, but also the other Senatori - Cambiasso, Materazzi, Cordoba, Samuel, Stankovic - who would make sure that players knew exactly what was acceptable and what wasn't when you played for Inter. And they'd enforce it with force, if necessary.
All of those players are gone now. Andrea Ranocchia is the captain, and while he's well-liked, he has quite a job ahead of him learning how to be a leader and convey authority. And it's not like he has much backup. Our other veteran players (Nagatomo, Palacio, Juan Jesus, Alvarez) are largely soft-spoken, easygoing types. The two players with actual leadership histories (Vidic, Hernanes) are both brand new to the club. The last thing we need is a player who doesn't respect the chain of command - and who has a history of physically lashing out at teammates - without the sort of bedrock to keep him in line.
True, Mazzarri is a head-cracking disciplinarian, but real team spirit comes from within the team itself, and this is a moment where we need to be fostering it.
8. He's Not the Best We Can Do
In case it hasn't been obvious by looking at out transfer windows for the last several years, Inter is not in a position to buy superstars. And frankly, I'm not sure that we need to. What we need this summer is a reliable if unspectacular goal scorer. A guy who can knock in 10 or so goals in all competitions while taking pressure off Icardi and Palacio, and opening up space for others to roam free.
Osvaldo certainly has those qualifications, but so do a lot of people. Among the other names we've seen floating around in the papers: Carlos Bacca, Javier Hernandez, Alexandre Pato, Roberto Soldado, etc. All of these players have drawbacks - Bacca is untested at a big club, Soldado flopped at Tottenham, Hernandez has never lived up to his hype, and Pato is a Milanista with the fitness levels of a 50-year-old arthritic chain-smoker. But they all have something in common: they've all scored more goals than Osvaldo, and none of them come with his sort of baggage. (And except for Soldado, they're all younger than him, too.)
9. He Has Scenes From Pink Floyd's "The Wall" Tattooed on His Left Arm
Wait...actually, that's pretty cool. Most footballers tend to have horrible musical tastes. (Did you see the Spotify playlist David Luiz put together before the World Cup? It was like 60% Jason Mraz and worship music.) Okay, so he's not all bad.
10. He's 28 Years Old
This might be one of the biggest red flags for me. Football has tons of characters, some unsavory, but most tend to grow out of their youthful hotheadedness. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Frank Lampard were both colossal douchebags in their early 20s, but by their mid-20s had turned into respectable team leaders. Our current bad boy signing Yann M'Vila committed all of his most infamous indiscretions prior to his 22nd birthday. Mario Balotelli is still only 23, and hasn't done anything outrageously stupid for at least a year now.
But Osvaldo is pushing 30, and he's still pulling this crap without any obvious intention to stop. As he said in an interview not too long ago, "It's true, I have a horrible personality. But I kind of like being like this."
I realize that we're building a football team here, not a church choir, but Osvaldo simply does not have the type of skill level to make this a worthwhile tradeoff. Luis Suarez is a sociopath, but he scored 31 goals last season. Ibrahimovic is a nutcase, but by the time he was Osvaldo's age he had nearly a dozen club titles to his name and was just named Capocannoniere. Osvaldo is every bit as crazy as them, but with half the skill, and that's just not the kind of player I want at my club.