Gabriel Batistuta, often known as simply Batigol* is one of many talented Argentinian strikers throughout the history. His first professional contract was signed with Newell’s Old Boys, and in style; Batistuta just played in the final against Newell’s where he scored two goals, drawing the attention of the great Marcelo Bielsa. The genius wasted no time and signed young Gabriel immediately.
*No need explaining this one
It wasn’t easy for Batistuta to adapt to the new environment; 19-year old had to leave everything behind, his parents, friends and girlfriend, only to sleep at one of the rooms in the stadium. Rough patch proved to be even rougher when he faced some weight issues. However, even thought it wasn’t very productive year for him, Batistuta still says that Bielsa is the best manager he’s ever had:
He’s the one who taught me how to train on rainy days, he taught me everything”
Batistuta then moved to one of two biggest Argentinians clubs; River Plate. It was very weird season; lethal striker scored 17 goals before he was put on ice by new manager. Player and the manager didn’t have any public disagreements, and Passarella, the new manager, even said that Batistuta will blossom in the right team.
Batistuta served his cold revenge when he joined River’s arch rivals, Boca Juniors the following season. Start of the season was rough, but this time, change of manager helped Batigol, as Oscar Tabarez put him as the focal point of the team, which in turn helped Batistuta become the top league scorer and lead Boca to winning the league.
After some great performances, both in domestic competitions and Copa Libertadores, Fiorentina wasted no time. Batistuta was brought in, and he wasted no time – 13 goals in his debut season. He scored 16 the next season, but the team got relegated. Everyone expected Batistuta to leave, but he stayed loyal, helping Fiorentina to seal Serie B title with 16 goals, under Claudio Ranieri’s guidance.
At the start of the 1990s, Batistuta managed to help Argentina win two Copa America titles (1991, 1993), but he never replicated the success at the World Cup until the end of his career,
The following season was something else; Batigol scored in each of 11 opening games* of the season, breaking 30-year old record, ending the season with 26 goals as the top scorer. Fiorentina won Coppa Italia, where Bati scored in both legs, and Italian Supercup
*Piatek is good, but he’s no Batigol
When reading these stats, you have to keep in mind that 90s Serie A was very defensively orientated league, which makes his goalscoring numbers even better.
Seasons ahead cemented Batistuta’s status as the biggest player in Fiorentina history. He scored at least 20 goals in three season in a row, Viola played in UEFA Cup semifinals, and the crown was third place in FIFA Player of the Year awards in 1999.
The fans loved him and he loved them back, Batistuta and Fiorentina were match made in heavens. However, Batistuta’s personal success wasn’t followed by his team’s results, so in 1999, the unthinkable happened – Gabriel Batistuta moved to Roma in 2000.
At the time of the move, Batistuta was 31 year old, but Roma was ready to do anything to win the title, especially after their city rivals, Lazio did so in 1999/00 season.
Batistuta delivered the following season – he scored 20 goals and Roma won Calcio with Fabio Capello at helm. However, one moment stood out.
It’s noon of November 26th. Roma are playing Fiorentina at home. Before the match, Batistuta salutes Viola fans, and they salute him back with joy.
It’s 83rd minute of the match, and the scored is tied at 0-0. After some scrambling, the balls bounces right in front of Batistuta, about 25 meters away from goal… Bati hits it with a volley, and it ends up in corner of the net. His teammates are celebrating, the stands are going crazy, official speaker is losing his mind. And Batistuta? Batistuta is crying his heart out.
Per words of Sean Ingle, it’s the day when Batistuta broke Florentine’s heart, and his own.
Bati’s age caught up with him, and he was loaned out* to Inter in 2004
*Italians never change
He ended his career in Qatar, after scoring 25 goals in the league, going out with style.
If you want to talk numbers, Batistuta is Argentine’s second best scorer in history, only surpassed by, in his words “extraterrestrial” Messi.
Batistuta scored a total of 584 goals in his career, 333 of those for his beloved Fiorentina, and 54 for his national team. He often struck ball with as much power as possible*, completing the idea of complete and feared striker all around the world of football.
*Yes, Adriano comes to mind first
Many people know that Batistuta is a rare breed, as he didn’t love football as much:
I don’t like football, it’s only my job
Loved it or not, nobody can say Batigol didn’t give his all to football; Batistuta had severe leg issues caused by the overdrive throughout his playing career. It got to the point where he asked the doctors to amputate his legs, as he couldn’t cope with the pain anymore just after retiring in 2005. It was a real drama, as he said later:
I can’t put in to words just how bad the pain was.
I urinated in the bed even though the bathroom was only a few meters away.
It was 4am and I knew if I stood my ankle would kill me, the pain was unbearable.
Luckily, his condition improved, and he even took part in some charity matches later on.
Batistuta and Ronaldo were one of the great rivalries of the game, two strikers in their prime terrorizing defenses in the late 90s. Perhaps Bati’s loyalty for Fiorentina kept him from “winning” the historical matchup. However, it’s safe to say that those two are the strikers that marked generation of football, and they were both too strong and powerful even for their own bodies as it turned out.
To end, for all the readers from Balkan, here’s an iconic scene involving “anecdote” about Batistuta everybody knows about: