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Gabriel Batistuta - Argentina's Forgotten Legend

An article all about the life and times of Gabriel Batistuta, from his humble beginnings in Argentina to his record breaking World Cups

By on Aug 28, 2013   6215 views   0 comments
Football Views - Gabriel Batistuta - Argentina's Forgotten Legend
Argentina has had it's fair share of goal scoring legends. The likes of Messi, Crespo and Maradona, have turned the country into one of the most formidable sides in the modern games. But there was one man who has still to be eclipsed for his international contribution as well as overcoming his problems to make himself a very prolific goal scorer. That man is Gabriel Batistuta, the highest ever scorer for the Argentinian national team to this day.

Batistuta was born on the 1st of Febuary 1969, in the province of Santa Fe in Argentina. He was a tall child, and naturally played basketball, but chose to pursue football, impressed by the skills of the present national team. He was signed up by the Platense junior team, and went on to play for the city of Reconquista in the provincial tournament in Argentina. He scored twice against Newell Old Boys, and later signed for team who are also famous for being the club where Lionel Messi also started his career. His coach at the club was a certain Mareclo Bielsa, who would later go on to manage Athletic Bilbao, but more importantly, the Argentinian national side.

Things did not get off to a good start for the tall frontman, as weight problems and homesickness led to Batistuta being loaned out to a small team in Buenos Aires for the rest of the season. Despite, his poor showing, he still managed to impress River Plate, one of the biggest sides in Argentina, who signed him in 1989. He had a successful season scoring 17 goals, but failed to score more due to him being dropped halfway through the season, after numerous arguments with coach Daniel Passarella, who also was to be his future national team manager.

In 1990 he signed for Boca Juniors, the arch-rivals of River Plate, but failed to find any form as he hadn't played for a long time. However, at the beginning of 1991, the new coach Oscar Tabarez, gave him the support and confidence to end the season as the top scorer, as Boca ran away with the league.

In the following summer, Batistuta was called up to the Argentinian national side for the Copa America in Chile, and had an outstanding tournament, scoring 6 goals, ending up as the top scorer. Argentina, buoyed by his performance, romped to victory.

This display impressed Fiorentina, who he signed for at the start of the next season. He had a good start to his career in Italy, scoring 13 goals in his first season. The second season was much even more successful, as he scored 16 goals. Despite this, Fiorentina failed to stay up and were relegated to Serie B.

In the summer, Batistuta was called up again for another Copa America, which Argentina won again. This reflected on his club performances, as he yet again scored 16 goals, as they were promoted back to Serie A, under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri. At the end of the season Batistuta participated in his first World Cup in the USA. Argentina, after a promising start, crashed to a Round of 16 defeat to Romania. Batistuta still had a successful tournament scoring 4 times in as many games.

He then went on to have one of the best seasons of his career, scoring 26 goals, and scoring in the first 11 matches, a new record. The 95-96 season was just as successful as he scored 19 goals, and won the Supercoppa, as well as the Copa Italia. He had two more successful years, scoring 13 and 21 goals in those seasons. He was now one of the most respected strikers, not only in Italy, but in the whole of Europe.

He also had successful international seasons despite missing out of a lot of matches due to disagreements with manager Passarella. He was recalled for the 1998 World Cup, where he broke yet another record, scoring his second hat trick in World Cups against Jamaica, becoming only the fourth player to do so. Argentina were knocked out by a late Denis Berkamp winner against the Netherlands.

In the 98/99 season Batisututa was contemplating moving to a larger club, due to Fiorentina's inability to win the league. Desperate to keep their star man, they hired Trappatoni as their manager, and promised to win the league. After a great start, Batistuta suffered a injury, and Fiorentina slumped to a 3rd place finish, giving them Champions League.

Batistuta decided to stay for 1 last season, attracted by the prospect of continental football at the highest level. Even after a decent start, Fiorentina again fell away, finishing 7th in the league, and were knocked out in the group stage of the Champions League, despite the strikers 23 goals.

He left the club as a legend, with 168 goals in 269 games for the club. He moved to Roma for approximately £23.5 million, still a record for a player over 30 years old. At Roma he finally won that elusive league title, scoring 20 goals as a 32 year old. The next two season were less successful as he scored 6 and 4 goals respectively. In the second half of the 02/03 season, he was loaned to Inter Milan where he scored twice. Batistuta also played his last international competition, the 2002 World Cup, where the national side, managed by Bielsa, were favourites. Despite pre-tournament labels, Argentina failed to qualify for the knockout rounds, after being handed the 'Group of Death' with the likes of Sweeden, England and Nigeria.

After a potential move to English side Fulham broke down, he instead moved to Qatari side Al-Arabi, where he broke the record for the most goals in a season by scoring 24 times in the 03/04 season. In his last season as an professional footballer, he made just 3 appearances, and failed to score.

Batistuta retired as one of the most consistent and prolific scorers in the Serie A and for Argentina. He scored exactly 300 times in 516 games in his illustrious career for both club and country, earning him his nickname, Batigoal. He was named the best striker he has even seen play by Diego Maradona, and has won numerous awards celebrating his great achievements. He has to be seen as Argentina's forgotten legend.

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