Mauricio Pinilla has arrived in Sicily with an extremely chequered career so far. At 26, he is already a journeyman having played for 10 clubs in seven different countries. He has been blighted by injury and has courted controversy, including a love-triangle story greater than that of Messrs John Terry and Wayne Bridge. Yet, Pinilla is widely regarded as one of the greatest talents Chile has produced in recent times, even ahead of the hugely gifted Alexis Sánchez. This raw ability to score goals is an intriguing prospect for Palermo fans but at what price does it come?
Pinilla seemed more settled in the last year than he had been over his entire time roaming the globe as a mercenary striker. He claims he has “changed as a person, on a personal and professional level.” He is clearly trying to shed the image gained as someone who is more famous off the field than he ever was on it. The love tryst mentioned previously was with the then Chilean captain Luis Jiménez and his model wife. This resulted in Pinilla having to be admitted to hospital with head traumas after a confrontation with the attacking midfielder after being caught in the hotel with her. Undoubtedly great fun at the time, the fall out must have been far worse than he could have imagined. As the damaging effect this had was something born out of a lack of impulse control, a lack of professionalism and a lack of maturity.
With all of his past indiscretions, it is a risk to introduce him to a squad of young players, trying to mature and grow into the stars they are projected to be. The Rosanero could be putting a temptation in front of their most prized assets. They are taking a gamble on him being a reformed character and it will be interesting to watch how this plays out over a full season.
He clearly suffered from leaving home at a young age – he was only 19 when he signed for Inter. Indeed, there has been a history of players from South America failing to make the adjustments personally when trying to adapt to living abroad – Adriano is a fine example of this. He was also told from a very young age that he was extremely gifted and reminded of how wonderful he was. Everything came so naturally to him that he would often be accused of slacking in training. The stable approach he had gained in the last season could be attributed to a reversal in this attitude: “I’ve found the emotional balance I needed to play well, I’ve realised that football is a profession.” Settling down with a family seems to have helped, something Sir Alex Ferguson is famed for pushing in his players. It gives a sense of responsibility and a drive to succeed.
”I have been wasteful with my talent” Pinilla lamented at his unveiling, ”Palermo have shown great faith in me and I intend to repay them with lots of goals.” These are all the right noises and his agent would have been proud of him for successfully attempting to allay the fears. This introspection is a sign of maturity, he clearly realises he has made mistakes and his career has not gone the way he planned or even expected it to. This can either instil a sense of humility and determination to prove to your critics you can be who you were supposed to be. Or you can become surly and un-cooperative and just wonder what might have been have you had a few more breaks.
Shots at redemption are indeed risky business. By definition, to redeem yourself you have already had your fatal flaw exposed to the world and your fallibility proved. He may well have been settled at Grosseto and found the back of the net on multiple occasions but Serie A is extremely different. The standard of competition is higher and the pressures to deliver are greater. Rosanero fans are just unsure about how he will react in situations, which require a cool and level head. It was enough to keep several Champions League teams unsure about whether to sign him. His talent is undeniable but only time will tell, as the season unfolds in front of our eyes, how this soap opera will end, and whether the gamble was worth it.