If the signings of Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren for a combined fee of £21m served to highlight Southampton’s ambition earlier this summer, the arrival of Pablo Osvaldo from Roma in a deal that could be worth up to £14.6m is a strong a statement of intent as any the south coast club has made since returning to the top-flight last season.
The 27-year-old Italian left the Eternal City in acrimonious circumstances after just two seasons with the Giallorossi, during which he netted 28 goals in 57 appearances in all competitions.
Unfortunately for Osvaldo, his excellent goal return was obscured by a series of controversies that earned him a reputation for being a bit of a “loose cannon” in Serie A and didn’t win him many friends among the Roma fans.
Having arrived in the Italian capital for a £12.5m fee on the back of a successful season at Espanyol, during which he had netted 13 times in 24 La Liga appearances, Osvaldo’s career in Rome was off to a flier as he scored against cross-town rivals Lazio in the Rome Derby, before being suspended by his club for punching team-mate Erik Lamela after the Argentine had failed to pass him the ball.
The former Espanyol man’s extravagant behaviour didn’t end there either as last season, with Roma trailing against Sampdoria, the striker insisted to take on penalty duties himself, despite regular penalty-taker and club legend Francesco Totti’s presence on the pitch.
Predictably, Osvaldo missed the penalty and was heavily criticised by media and fans alike, before issuing an apology via Twitter.
However, despite his controversies, there are plenty of reasons for Southampton fans to be optimistic about the Italian’s arrival at St. Mary’s. For a start, Osvaldo will be reunited with Mauricio Pochettino, the coach who got the best out of him during his 18 months at Espanyol, and Osvaldo has never hidden his respect for the former Valencia defender.
Furthermore, the Italian’s style should suit the Premier League, for the 27-year-old is a powerful, yet mobile striker, who’s in his natural habit as main target, but is also at ease when play alongside another striker.
During his spell at Roma, Osvaldo was often used as the battering ram of a front three including Erik Lamela and Francesco Totti, while Italy coach Cesare Prandelli deployed him alongside Mario Balotelli for the Azzurri.
For all his antics, Osvaldo has scored 51 goals in all competitions in the last three seasons, a positive return whichever way one may look at it, and he’s also found the net three times in 12 appearances for his country.
Last season, Southampton showed an over-reliance to Rickie Lambert in the final third of the pitch, as the England striker was the club’s top scorer with 15 Premier League goals, with Jason Puncheon and Jay Rodriguez distant joint-second with six apiece.
In Pochettino’s plans, the arrival of Osvaldo will add another dimension to the Saints’ frontline, where the talented Gaston Ramirez – with whom Osvaldo played for six months at Bologna in 2010 – is yet to fully justify the £12m Southampton paid for him last year.
The hefty price tag on his shoulders is unlikely to faze Osvaldo, a man who’s never been short of self confidence as he showed earlier this summer when, having been heavily criticised by the Roma fans during an open training session, he challenged them to “meet me outside the ground, so I can take you lot on, one by one”.
Southampton fans will hope the Italo-Argentine keeps his fire onto the pitch this season.