28 August 2006

What do you do with an angry Oddo?

Massimo Oddo is angry. In one respect he should be. Undoubtedly a world-class talent at right back, he's never been given the chance to shine on a world stage. While he can call himself "un campione del mondo," he still has to live with the fact that he saw the least playing time of any azzurro except the backup keepers. And he won't even see the bench at any of the European tournaments this year unless he leaves Lazio.

Lazio lost another chance (albeit a long-shot) to play in Europe next year when they suffered their disappointing loss to Messina on Sunday. Oddo was furious when he was pulled in the second period of extra time. Again, in one respect he should be. He is certainly considered the leader of the biancoceleste defense, and they had just for the second time in the match given up two goals in four minutes. Lazio was about to lose a match they should not have. What is certain is that he did not hold back his opinions from either Rossi or Lotito. What is uncertain is exactly what else he did as he came off the pitch. A report on gazzetta.it said that he took off his jersey and threw it "presumably" in the direction of Delio Rossi. This rumor spread to other news sites and sensationalist blurbs about Massimo's bad behavior started springing up. Meanwhile, that sentence was excised from the Gazzetta article. Someone in editorial must have seen it for what it was--a drummed-up attempt to sell a story.

So what is really on the table between Lazio and Massimo Oddo?

1. He is still under contract with Lazio for two more seasons.
2. He has clearly stated that he wishes to play in Champions League, preferably with Milan.
3. The Alleged Deal. Last season there was a rumored agreement that if Oddo helped Lazio achieve a spot in UEFA Cup, he would be free to leave the team if he chose.
4. Calciopoli strikes. Oddo did hold up his end of the deal, but of course the Calciopoli verdict put Lazio out of Europe.
5. Lazio starts trade talks with Milan. Milan puts forth an offer of €4M and midfielder Pasquale Foggia, which Lotito (still running the club despite his ban) refused.
6. Delio Rossi says he will not try to stop Oddo if he wants to leave.

With the stage set like that, Oddo expects that Lotito and co. will be amenable to organizing a deal to get him safely transferred to Milan. But now Lotito wants to milk the situation for all the cash it's worth. The only problem is that in his greed, the deal may fall through. With only two days left until the mercato deadline, the time crunch has raised the stakes. With Lazio falling short (especially on defense) against Messina, emotions have hit a new height.

It seems that Lotito is prepared to say "You are under contract, I don't have to organize a sale for you." Technically, he is allowed to assert this right. Practically, he has to decide whether it is useful. Will an angry Oddo play at 100%? Or will his seeming lack of Lazialità seriously hurt his contribution to the team? Who is stronger: Oddo in whatever mental condition he will be in, or Marco Motta or another replacement who is fresh and ready to go? Only time will tell what the correct choice should have been, but in two days the Laziali will at least know what that choice is.

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