News coming out of Italy this week has suggested that Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo may not be sticking around the Stadio Olimpico for very long. The 26-year-old has been sensational this term for the Giallorossi, scoring nine League goals in just 13 appearances, and becoming a focal point for the free-flowing, all-encompassing football of Zdenek Zeman’s side.
The former Espanyol man has flourished under the guidance of the Czech Coach and has been one of the true surprises of the season. It is no wonder then that the likes of Milan and Fiorentina have been sniffing around the Argentina-born forward, with a view to signing him during the window.
If that is the case, and he does leave the Lupi for pastures new, it could either be the making, or breaking, of understudy Mattia Destro.
The 21-year-old has been utterly inconsistent since his arrival from Siena in the summer. And has been in-and-out of the starting XI as a result. A return of four goals – against Palermo, Siena and Pescara – in 13 Serie A games isn’t quite what the Roma hierarchy had in mind when they signed the striker tipped as the next big thing.
Some star turns the previous year for the Robur had attracted the attention of the biggest and brightest teams on the peninsula. But it was the capital club who eventually won out, initially spending a whopping €11.5m to bring him to the Eternal City.
A lot was expected of the Ascoli-born attacker when he joined La Magica, as club legend Francesco Totti highlighted. “We're talking about a very promising young man here,” the captain told reporters back in July. “I think that he could become a top player. His arrival will really improve the squad.”
Things haven’t quite gone to plan however, and with half the season gone, Destro has still only managed to play a full 90 minutes four times.
There’s no doubting the young man’s talents – he has pace, intelligence on the ball, a clear eye for goal and even managed to score on his full international debut. But when you look at the progress being made by Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy, the comparisons are not even close.
It’s a real Catch 22 for Zeman and his coaching staff in how to get the best out of the former Inter Primavera man. Should he be given an extended run in the team to regain his confidence and goalscoring touch? But if he fails, how can Roma cope without a genuine presence up front?
Of course, Destro is still a player developing talents – however, at what point does potential tip over into lack of quality? It’s a question the Coach will be pondering relentlessly during the January transfer window.
To be completely fair to the one-time Genoa man though, even he has admitted that his six months in red and yellow haven’t been entirely successful. “I need to be more clinical in front of goal,” he noted. “Certain chances should not be missed.
“The team has faith in me, but, unfortunately, I have not been able to give what I would have wanted up until now. I had no doubts about joining Roma though. Fabio Borini – now at Liverpool – advised me to come because this is a great team and a great city.”
It is perhaps unfair to be too critical about a striker who is only just starting out in the game at such a level. The fact remains, however, that his first few months in Rome haven’t been at all good.
Maybe it has been the weight of expectation? Maybe the price tag has put him off? Perhaps he needs some time to get used to Zeman’s style of play? Whatever it is, the tifosi will be hoping that 2013 is the year Mattia Destro truly arrives.