Modern footballers are sometimes accused of being a tad dull in terms of their personalities, but that accusation certainly can’t be thrown at the former Southampton and Italy striker Dani Osvaldo.
One of football’s ultimate bad boys, the Jack Sparrow lookalike made headlines for a host of misdemeanours throughout his topsy-turvy career.
Born in Lanus, Argentina, on January 12 1986, Osvaldo made his professional debut with Huracan in 2005 before moving to Europe one year later, signing for Italian outfit Atalanta.
He then went on to play for Leece, Fiorentina and Bologna before signing for Mauricio Pochettino’s Espanyol in 2010.
At this stage, his only notable moment of controversy came in 2008, when he celebrated a Fiorentina goal against Juventus by pretending to shoot his own fans with an imaginary machine gun after removing his shirt. He was shown a yellow card and sent for an early bath.
After a season with Espanyol, Osvaldo returned to Italy, completing a £13 million move to AS Roma, where he scored 30 goals in 58 games.
It was at Roma, though, where Osvaldo was suspended for reportedly punching teammate Erik Lamela in the face while inside the dressing room following a 2-0 defeat to Udinese in November 2011.
“The thing with Lamela was just the passion of the moment,” Osvaldo told reporters after the altercation. “I can be really annoying when it comes to this, as I always want the ball and admit I am as egotistical as most strikers. This incident, though, really was nothing. If I had Lamela’s left foot then I wouldn’t have passed the ball either.”
The following year, Osvaldo was sent off five times for club and country. He also angered the Roma fans by taking a penalty away from club legend Francesco Totti, snatching the ball before missing the crucial spot-kick.
Osvaldo also had off-field issues
Off the field, the Argentine forward was also making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“When I met Dani he was pure. Then the success got him dirty. The fame, the money, the wrong people who even sucked his blood.”
These were the words of his wife Elena Braccini, mother of two of Osvaldo’s children and the woman he left for Jimena Baron, an actress and singer from Argentina.
“He’s not bad, he’s not crazy either.” Braccini added. “He’s just a man who’s so weak, he does not know who really loved him and who screwed him.”
What happened to Dani Osvaldo at Southampton?
Osvaldo eventually left Roma under a cloud after falling out with caretaker manager Aurelio Andreazzoli but was handed a lifeline by Pochettino, who convinced Southampton to fork out a club-record £12.8 million for the flawed but talented centre-forward in August 2013.
He showed glimpses of his quality at St Mary’s. His sensational solo goal against Manchester City, where he embarrassed Vincent Kompany before lobbing 6ft 8in Costel Pantilimon will always be remembered fondly by Saints fans.
But the Italy international continued to struggle with anger issues.
In January 2014, he was fined £40,000 and banned for three matches for his part in a touchline melee against Newcastle United. Although he’d already been substituted when the brawl happened, Osvaldo’s reaction to a tackle in stoppage time was the spark that led to chaos.
Just a few weeks later, Osvaldo was banned two weeks by his own club after attacking Jose Fonte at Southampton’s training ground.
Fonte sustained a nasty black eye after being headbutted and Osvaldo’s Southampton career was effectively over, just 166 days after becoming the south-coast club’s record signing.
Osvaldo was loaned to Juventus, Inter Milan and Boca Juniors before Southampton terminated his contract in July 2015. The whole deal had cost the Saints around £25 million. They only received three goals in return.
Following a brief spell with FC Porto, Osvaldo returned to Boca Juniors in January 2016, only for his contract to be terminated several months later for arguing with coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto after being caught smoking in the dressing room.
Osvaldo retired aged 30 to become rockstar
Despite interest from several clubs, including Serie A outfit Chievo, Osvaldo opted to retire in the summer of 2016, aged 30, in order to form a rock band.
“I decided to quit at Boca, there was too much gossip,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I couldn’t go out, I was afraid of people. I couldn’t do it any more. I had offers from China and clubs in the Champions League, but I was detached.
“I was beginning to hate what I’d always loved. Football deserves respect, and I prefer asado [Argentine barbecue] and beer to money.”
Osvaldo briefly came out of retirement in January 2020, signing for Argentine side Banfield, but lasted just six months and hasn’t been tempted to return since.
“People sometimes don’t understand me,” the South American, who continues to play with his band Barrio Viejo, was quoted as saying by the Daily Star. “They look at me like, ‘You are crazy. You had everything, played for some of the best teams in the world and decided to just quit – for this.’
“But, I don’t know, it’s my passion. Just play. If the people like it, better. If not, we like it at least.”
(Credit: Dani Osvaldo, Instagram)
Dani Osvaldo: Why I’d hate to be Lionel Messi
A free spirit, Osvaldo admitted that he would hate to be in Lionel Messi’s shoes.
“Would I like to be like Messi? No. I’d like to play like him, but he has no life. It’s as if he lives in a golden prison,” the retired striker said of his compatriot, per Marca.
“He couldn’t go somewhere and quietly drink something. Maybe he doesn’t care about it, but I do.
“I imagine him buying the biggest TV in the world, but then he’s never in his living room to use it.
“Failing that, he probably drives a Ferrari, knowing he lives 15 minutes away from the Barcelona’s training ground…”
In a separate interview, he added: “There are so many many rules in football. So so many rules. And I’m not good with the rules. I like to be free.
“I left football and I don’t feel heavy any more. I feel free and relaxed. I’m so happy now.”
(Credit: Dani Osvaldo, Instagram)