Gabriel Batistuta: Emotional and deadly
Gabriel Batistuta was a passionate and lethal attacker during the nineties and early 2000s. To this day, he can’t go to Italy, where he spent the majority of his career, without being mobbed but why is it that he’s loved so much?
For Gabriel Batistuta trophies were secondary
If you watched Batistuta play the game, you’d think he’d do anything to win. He was ferocious, strong and was deadly when it came to finding the net. The passion would explode from his body every time the ball beat the keeper. His will to win was there alright; he was desperate to win. Just not for the reasons you might think.
If you listen to the Fiorentina legend talk you’ll quickly realise his eyes weren’t on the prize of money or silverware. He just wanted to bring his supporters joy. You may doubt a footballer who utters such a phrase but with Batistuta his actions backed it up.
Loyal and in love
Batistuta’s passion for the game was present from a young age with the striker openly talking of the sacrifices he made in life to reach the elite and an early spell under Marcelo Bielsa at Newell Old Boys hardly did anything to tone that side of his personality down. That period was over relatively quickly though with Batistuta bouncing through three clubs in as many years in his homeland before a move to Europe.
That move was to Fiorentina. His early years in Florence were far from ideal as they struggled to compete. His inaugural season saw a 12th place finish despite his 13 league goals giving the Purples the best ‘goals for’ in the bottom half. Scoring goals wasn’t a problem for the team. Batistuta was delivering and 16 goals in the 1992/93 season was an impressive return by any measure with him fifth in the goal scorer charts. It wasn’t to be. Fiorentina were relegated.
The second tier was below Batistuta. The club knew it, he knew, all of Italy knew it. Loyalty was important to the Argentine though. He wanted a legacy and his refusal to leave at the first sign of trouble brought him even closer to the fans who worshipped him. He fired them to an immediate Serie A return with a goal every 135 minutes. By now, the relationship between player and fan base had gone from an early crush to a full blown love affair.
Into the history books and then onto a new chapter
It continued for a further six years as Batistuta tried tirelessly to bring a league title to Stadio Artemio Franchi. Despite becoming the clubs record goal scorer with 203 goals in 331 games he could only fire them to a solitary Coppa Italia triumph. The time finally came when Batistuta made the call to move on. It was a decision that was made based solely on the fact he’d ‘given everything’. His destination? Roma.
He didn’t take long to endear himself to his new fans either. Then again with seven goals in his first six games, it would be hard not to like him. It wasn’t too far into the season when a face-off with his former club came around. Roma won 1-0 courtesy of a late goal. There is no prize for guessing the scorer. He left the field in tears having robbed his old fans of their happiness.
By the time the end of the season neared, Batistuta could park any doubts about whether he’d done the right thing. His 20 goals had brought the Serie A title to the Stadio Olimpico. A player of his calibre deserved it. Just 18 months later, Batistuta was loaned to Inter before finally waving goodbye to Italian football. His twilight years were spent in Qatar.
Awesome for Argentina
Rewind to that Fiorentina relegation campaign and you’ll see that Batistuta had started to make waves for the Argentinian national team. He’d just won two Copa Americas and a Confederations cup. Staying with the Purples was a huge risk on his part. It didn’t do him any harm though.
He went on to play at three World Cup finals, which included 1998 when David Beckham was sent off for a kick at Diego Simeone, and retired with a mightily respectable 54 goals in 77 caps. It made him their all-time top scorer until Lionel Messi overtook him in 2016.
Where is Gabriel Batistuta now?
At 51-years-old, Batistuta is long retired from the playing side of the game with little sign of a coaching role on the horizon. His most recent public venture was the release of his film, El numero nueve.
There you have it, the genius of Gabriel Batistuta.