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Dani Osvaldo: Inside the Mind of a Maverick

XWHY’s gets an exclusive with Dani Osvaldo – to talk about narcissism, Malcolm Gladwell and time-travel…

For a footballer with enough talent, there will always be a manager who believes they can be tamed – football folklore is full of mavericks that have found their spiritual home. Cantona at United, Barton at Marsaille and Di Canio at West Ham.

Of the current crop of misunderstood greats this season, I’ve taken a huge interest in Balotelli, Morrison and one Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, better known as Dani Osvaldo.

A quick google search of Dani Osvaldo’s name will throw up more than a few interesting adjectives, from journos, fans and teammates alike. The handsome Buenos Aires-born, Italian striker is blessed with looks that sit somewhere between Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and Jared Leto fronting 30 seconds to Mars. A timely wink would steal the hearts of most women…and plenty of men, for that matter.

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But, if the headlines are to be believed, this is where his charms ends. Colin O’Brien of popular sports site Bleacher Report recently claimed: “If Dani Osvaldo was half as good as he thinks he is, he’d be the best player in the world.”

After a brief spell at Southampton (where he became their club record signing), Osvaldo is currently cutting a fine figure as part of the Juventus side edging their way to a potential Europa Cup victory.

I’ve always wondered: is it attitude that separates good footballers, from great footballers and those from the sublime. Arguably, of the three best players in the world, currently only Messi is believed by the masses to be devoid of the classic footballer narcissism.

Then again, is it right to stifle the attitude that seems to go hand in hand with killer instinct?

We may never fully understand the inner workings of a footballer’s mind and nor, in many cases, would we really want to, but in this particular instance XWHY have been granted particular privileges.

Here is a little insight into the thoughts of one of football’s most ‘free-spirited’ players…our exclusive interview with Osvaldo himself:

Does it pay to be honest?

Unfortunately, it’s sometimes better not to say exactly what you think. I’m unable to keep everything – the feelings and anger – inside, but I’m learning, and I sometimes manage to keep myself in check. The problem is that misunderstandings are easy, sometimes those readers don’t understand exactly what I wanted to say, they don’t grasp the subtleties. Some of my interviews caused a lot of controversy and made my continuation difficult (if not impossible).

You seem very aware of your appearance and the effect you have on people…charisma is a natural gift, but how much do you give in to narcissism?

You see, the funny and curious thing is that there are more people who don’t like me than like me, so if there really was something artificial I’d be making enormous mistakes. People who don’t know me and just make a superficial judgement think that I’m presumptuous, almost arrogant; someone who’s a know-all.

But it’s quite the opposite. I often tell Jimena that 99 per cent of the people I meet are surprised, they tell me that they didn’t think I was so open, that they thought I was completely different, a d*ckhead. I think I’m an absolutely normal young man and like being like that.

Everything I do I try to do for good. You talked about football seen from outside? Well, I don’t see football other than that of the changing rooms and the field, that’s the football that interests me, the rest I don’t see much.

If there was a 110 per cent, that would be the percentage of my commitment and I’m serious about what I do. Sometimes I manage and sometimes I don’t, football isn’t an exact science and it sometimes happens that, despite the commitment, things don’t go well. But my will is not in question and I demand respect for it, so if I see someone who faces things less seriously and puts my efforts in danger, I rebel, I can’t stand it. That type of lightness makes me angry.

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Malcolm Gladwell, quotes the theory of a Swedish psychologist (Ericsson) in one of his books (Outliers) – talent is not enough to become better than everyone else – it also takes 10,000 hours of training. True or false?

I very much agree, particularly now in this football. In actual fact, I don’t think that a champion ever became great without training in any sort of football, not even that of the past. Perhaps just one, the greatest of all – Diego Armando Maradona – would have made it, but he trained like mad and so there’s no proof.
The football of today is more physical than technical and so it’s impossible. Messi and Ronaldo, the two greatest champions of contemporary football, unite enormous talent and a constancy and steely determination.

Cast your mind forward. What would you ask of 50-year-old Osvaldo and what would he tell his teenage self?

I would tell the 50-year-old me what I like about my personality. I would tell him how I’ve stayed the same and also see if he recognises himself in those features. It would be great. To the not-even-20-year-old me, the boy just arrived in Italy, I would tell him to take things more calmly. I wanted everything immediately, I wanted to play, I really wanted to. But I wouldn’t reprove him, because if I’ve done what I’ve done, it was because of his impetuosity.

And I’d say another essential thing to him – try to enjoy the moment. It’s difficult to do it every day but when something great and extraordinary happens, it’s right to stop and enjoy it through and through. My friends and Jimena (his Girlfriend), who keep my feet on the ground, help me to remember where I am and where I come from, this type of work on myself helps me to understand things better, to breathe well. I should be happy, I can’t not be.

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A very popular female writer says that the defender doesn’t hate what’s in front of him, but loves what’s behind him. And a forward?

If you ask me, the forward doesn’t think, he acts on instinct. Mine is a constant battle with myself, my real problem is myself and my brain, and puts blocks in the way; it upsets me. It happens in every job in the world, there are days when you feel like a king and everything turns out well and others when you feel really bad and everything seems very complicated. This happens in front of hundreds of thousands of people in professional football, so the forward does this – he acts, the less he thinks about who he has in front and behind, the better it is.

Some forwards are true professionals of trash talking. Others only enjoy doing it with players they know, as a sort of friendly provocation. Which category do you think you’re in?

I talk quite a lot on the field, but it depends on the match and the type of tension. If I’m losing badly and I haven’t seen a ball, it’s obvious that I’m very touchy and uptight. If I’m winning, it’s equally obvious that I’m enjoying myself and I become very likeable and ironic. In that case, if you insult me, I’ll even tease you. Sometimes, we say absurd things to each other; when I see myself, I want to laugh like mad thinking about what I’ve said and done in some circumstances.

Tell me at least one cliché of those about you that you’ve proved wrong.

They’ve always said that I live well, that I drink and take drugs, all types of idiocy and it’s never been true. They say it lightly, as though there were no consequences, even dangerous ones for me. I don’t know what inspires them, I’ve never understood it and if it wasn’t something sad I would laugh, because everything they say about me is totally incompatible with the life of an athlete. Many write without knowing me, without ever having met me, with a malice that scares me.

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You love travelling. Spain, Italy, England and Argentina – where would you live and play, if there was no gravity (and no contracts)?

Jimena and I talk a lot. It’s difficult to say at the moment, it’s not just the place where you’d like to live, but where it would make sense to live. One day, it’s certain that we’ll go back to Argentina, also because Jimena’s work is there. I can certainly say that I can’t see myself in Argentina for my whole life, because after living in Europe, I’ve realised how backward the place where I was born, and that I love, is from many points of view. At times, it’s as though I’m in a time machine and the handle’s turned back 50 years. It’s sad to say, but that’s how it is.

Agassi changed the history of sports autobiographies by telling of his love-hate for his sport and the complex relationship with his father. Is football still your first love, or has it evolved into just your profession?

I love playing football and I still enjoy myself. I think that most players like football, but I don’t know whether it’s because it guarantees them a rich and lucky life or because they love their sport, like me. I play as soon as I can, also with my friends. Always. Perhaps I’ve only thought about giving up once, because I was fed-up with the environment, the malice and the pressure.

Dani Osvaldo Nike FC XWHY Magazine Interview

An ex-hooligan, now established writer (Cass Pennant), said that it was the hooligans who wrote the modern epic with their clashes in the 1980s and 1990s. What do you think?

I think there’s a role for everyone, but I can’t stand it when the distances are too short, when the managers and footballers give complete, unconditioned access to their lives to people who shouldn’t have it. I think that being threatened because you don’t win and you don’t make an effort is absurd, horrendous.
As if someone liked losing, making a bad impression. It’s not good and I don’t like it – being a fan is great when it means warmth, support and affection. Even when the fans whistle, there’s nothing wrong, it’s their right. But violence, pressure, talking to the managers and players – no, it doesn’t make sense.
So I’d say the epics aren’t the battles written off the pitch – it’s what is on the field that writes the history of football.

You’re fascinated by pirates, do you know Sir Francis Drake’s motto sic parvis magna (thus great things from small things come)? What are your goals?

I want to be myself, to be a good father and make my children happy and if you think about it, it would be an exceptional, very simple result; the most beautiful thing.

What are you fleeing from (you said, Rep 2012, that you’re running away from something that you’ve not yet understood)?

I don’t run away anymore, I’ve stopped and I’ve faced the problems, Jimena’s taught me.

Want to read more of Mike’s sports interviews? Check out his question and answer session with David Luiz.

Also, check out the Nike F.C. ‘Without Risk There is no Victory’ campaign, in the lead up to the World Cup.

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