Gabriel Batistuta

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Gabriel Batistuta
Gabriel batistuta.jpg
Batistuta in 2006
Personal information
Full name Gabriel Omar Batistuta
Date of birth (1969-02-01) 1 February 1969 (age 48)
Place of birth Avellaneda, Santa Fe, Argentina
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Playing position Striker
Youth career
1987–1988 Newell's Old Boys
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1988–1989 Newell's Old Boys 16 (4)
1989–1990 River Plate 19 (3)
1990–1991 Boca Juniors 30 (13)
1991–2000 Fiorentina 269 (168)
2000–2003 Roma 63 (30)
2003 Internazionale (loan) 12 (2)
2003–2005 Al-Arabi 21 (25)
Total 430 (245)
National team
1991–2002 Argentina 77 (54[a])
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Gabriel Omar Batistuta (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡaˈβɾjel ˈomaɾ βatisˈtuta]; born 1 February 1969), nicknamed Batigol [batiˈɣol][2] as well as El Ángel Gabriel [el ˌaŋxel ɣaˈβɾjel] (Spanish for Angel Gabriel), is a retired Argentine professional footballer. After beginning his career in Argentina in 1988, where he won titles playing for Newell's Old Boys, River Plate, and subsequently Boca Juniors, the prolific striker played most of his club football with Fiorentina in Italy;[3] he is the twelfth-highest scorer of all-time in the Italian Serie A, with 184 goals in 318 matches.

When his club Fiorentina was relegated to Serie B in 1993, Batistuta stayed with the club and helped it return to the top-flight league a year later. He became a popular sporting figure in Florence; the Fiorentina fans erected a life-size bronze statue of him in 1996, in recognition of his performances for the club.[4] Despite winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana with the club in 1996, he never won the Italian league with Fiorentina, but when he moved to Roma in 2000, he finally won the Serie A title to crown his career in Italy.[5] After an unsuccessful loan spell with Inter in 2003, he played his last two seasons in Qatar with Al-Arabi before he retired in 2005.[6]

At international level, he was Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer with 54 goals in 77 official matches,[a] a record he held until 2016. Batistuta played at three World Cups, scoring 10 goals, which makes him Argentina's all-time top scorer in the competition, and the joint eighth-highest World Cup goalscorer of all time.[7] Batistuta is the only player in football history to score two hat-tricks in different World Cups. With the Argentina national team he won two consecutive Copa América titles and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation, in 1999, Batistuta placed third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award,[8] and in 2004 he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.[9]

Biography[edit]

Batistuta is of Northern Italian ancestry.[10][11] Gabriel Batistuta was born on 1 February 1969, to slaughterhouse worker Omar Batistuta and school secretary Gloria Zilli, in the town of Avellaneda, province of Santa Fe, Argentina, but grew up in the near city of Reconquista. He has three younger sisters, named Elisa, Alejandra, and Gabriela. Batistuta is a Roman Catholic.

At the age of 16, he met Irina Fernández, his future wife, at her quinceañera, a rite of passage on her 15th birthday. On 28 December 1990, they were married at Saint Roque Church. The couple moved to Florence, Italy, in 1991, and a year later their first son, Thiago, was born. Thanks to good performances in the Italian championship and with the Argentine national team, Batistuta gained fame and respect. He filmed several commercials and was invited onto numerous TV shows, but in spite of this, Batistuta always remained a low-profile family man.

In 1997, Batistuta's second son, Lucas, was born, and a third son, Joaquín, followed in 1999. He now has a fourth son Shamel. In 2000, Batistuta and his family moved to Rome, where he played for Roma. Two years after Shamel was born, Batistuta was loaned to Inter. In 2003, after 12 years in Italy, the family moved to Qatar where Batistuta had accepted a lucrative celebrity playing contract with a local team, Al-Arabi.

Batistuta ended his career at Al-Arabi, retiring in March 2005, after a series of injuries that prevented him from playing. Soon afterwards he moved to Perth, Australia. In April 2006, the city's established A-League franchise, Perth Glory was put up for sale however Batistuta was not interested in the purchase seeing no real potential in the club.[12] He moved back to Argentina in 2007.[13]

Despite having completed his coaching badges in Argentina, he currently has no involvement with football, instead he prefers to play polo and golf, he was quoted saying 'I don't like football, it's only my job'.[14][15] He later expressed an interest in coaching Australia's national team and Argentina's team.[16] During the 2006 FIFA World Cup he worked as a commentator for Televisa Deportes. Batistuta currently runs his own construction company in Argentina. He also worked as technical secretary in the professional football club Colón, joining the club's staff in January 2012, and leaving at the end of the 2012–13 season.[17] In 2017, Batistuta submitted a CV to Premier Soccer League team Cape Town City F.C. after coach Eric Tinkler left the club to coach Supersport United.

Speaking in a television interview in Argentina in 2014, Batistuta said the pain suffered in his ankles after retiring in 2005 became so intense that he "urinated in bed with the toilet only a few steps away. I couldn't move." He visited a doctor he knew asking his legs be amputated, but the doctor turned down his request.[18] Although he later underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on his cartilage and tendons, and his condition improved slightly, in a 2017 interview he stated that he still had difficulty walking and faced mobility issues as a result of the stresses and injuries he faced throughout his football career due to overexerting himself.[19]

Club career[edit]

Early career[edit]

As a child, Batistuta preferred other sports to football. Because of his height he played basketball, but after Argentina's victory in the 1978 FIFA World Cup, in which he was particularly impressed by the skills of Mario Kempes, he devoted himself to football. After playing with friends on the streets and in the small Grupo Alegria club, he joined the local Platense junior team. While with Platense, he was selected for the Reconquista team that won the provincial championship by beating Newell's Old Boys from Rosario. His 2 goals drew the attention of the opposition team, and he signed for them in 1988.

Newell's Old Boys[edit]

Batistuta at Newell's Old Boys, 1988

Batistuta signed professional forms with Newell's Old Boys, whose coach was Marcelo Bielsa, who would later become Batistuta's coach with the Argentine national team. Things did not come easily for Batistuta during his first year with the club. He was away from home, his family, and his girlfriend Irina, sleeping in a room at the stadium, and had a weight problem that slowed him down. At the end of that year he was loaned to a smaller team, Deportivo Italiano, of Buenos Aires, with whom he participated in the Carnevale Cup in Italy, ending as top scorer with 3 goals.

River Plate[edit]

In mid-1989, Batistuta made the leap to one of Argentina's biggest clubs, River Plate, where he scored 17 goals. He was drawn out of the team by the new coach Daniel Passarella in the mid season, apparently with no specific reason, according to Gabriel they never had a dispute.[20] Passarella declared at that time "when Batistuta finds a team that be able to play to him he will be lethal" and highlighted his professionalism.[21]

Boca Juniors[edit]

In 1990, Batistuta signed for River's arch-rivals, Boca Juniors. He initially found it hard to find his best form, in part not playing in his position. However, at the beginning of 1991 Oscar Tabárez became Boca's coach, and he gave Batistuta the support and put him into his best place in the field, the centre of attack. Then Gabriel became the league's top scorer that season as Boca won the championship.[20]

Fiorentina[edit]

While playing for Argentina in the 1991 Copa América, the vice-president of Fiorentina was impressed by Batistuta's skills and signed him for the Italian club. He had a fine start in Serie A, scoring 13 goals in his debut season. However, the following season (1992–93) Fiorentina lost in the relegation battle and were demoted to Serie B, despite Batistuta's 16 league goals. The club returned to Serie A after one season in Serie B, with the contribution of 16 goals from Batistuta and the management of Claudio Ranieri, as Fiorentina captured the 1993–94 Serie B title.[22]

At Fiorentina, Batistuta found his best form. He was the top scorer of the 1994–95 Serie A season with 26 goals, and he broke Ezio Pascutti's 30-year-old record by scoring in all of the first 11 matches of the season. In the 1995–96 season, Batistuta, alongside Manuel Rui Costa and Francesco Baiano, helped the club to go on a 15-match unbeaten run, as they eventually ended the season with a fourth-place league finish. Fiorentina also won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana over Milan; in the two-legged Coppa Italia final against Atalanta, Batistuta scored a goal in each fixture as Fiorentina won 3–0 on aggregate.[22][23] The next season was less successful, as Fiorentina finished in a disappointing ninth place in the league, although the team managed to reach the semi-finals of the 1996–97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, losing out to eventual champions Barcelona,[24] despite scoring a goal in a 1–1 away draw in the first leg.[25]

After his failure to win the Italian championship with Fiorentina, Batistuta started considering a transfer to a bigger team. In an effort to keep Batistuta, Fiorentina hired Giovanni Trapattoni as coach and promised to do everything to win the Scudetto. After an excellent start to the season, Batistuta suffered an injury that kept him out of action for more than a month. Losing momentum, Fiorentina lost the lead and finished the season in third place, although the result enabled them to participate in the Champions League the following season.[26]

Scudetto with Roma[edit]

Batistuta stayed at Fiorentina for the 1999–2000 season, tempted by the chance of winning both the Scudetto and the Champions League. After a promising start in both competitions, the team only reached seventh in the league and were eliminated in the second round group phase of the European tournament. The following season, he was transferred to Roma in a deal worth 70 billion lire[27] and signed a 3-year contract, which earned 14.8 billion Italian lire per year before tax.[28] The fee paid for Batistuta remains the highest fee ever paid for a player over the age of 30.[29]

During the 2000–01 Serie A season, he finally garnered a Serie A winners' medal as Roma clinched the Scudetto[30] for the first time since 1983. The following season with Roma, he changed his shirt number from 18 to 20 in reference to the number of goals he had scored during the Scudetto winning campaign. He also wore his age on the back of his Roma jersey in 2002, number 33.

Inter and Qatar[edit]

Batistuta failed to find form with Roma and was loaned out to Internazionale, scoring 2 goals in 12 matches, although he did form a considerable amount of assists within a formidable strike-partnership alongside then-rampant Christian Vieri. He sought a move to England, to play with Fulham but the deal never transpired.[31][32] Instead he departed Italy for Qatari team Al-Arabi on a free transfer, in a deal worth $8 million. In Qatar, he broke the record for most goals scored that was held by Qatari legend Mansour Muftah by scoring 25 goals.

International career[edit]

In 1991, Batistuta was selected to play for Argentina in the Copa América held in Chile, where he finished the tournament as top scorer with six goals as Argentina romped to victory.[33] The following year, he won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Argentina, finishing as the tournament's top-scorer. In 1993, Batistuta played in his second Copa América, this time held in Ecuador, which Argentina won with Batistuta scoring both goals in a 2–1 win over Mexico in the final.

The 1994 World Cup, held in the United States, was a disappointment. After a promising start Argentina were beaten by Romania in the last 16. The morale of the team was seriously affected by Diego Maradona's doping suspension. Despite the disappointing Argentine exit, Batistuta scored four goals in as many games, including a hat-trick in their opening game against Greece.[34]

During the qualification matches for the 1998 World Cup (with former River Plate manager Daniel Passarella) Batistuta was left out of the majority of the games after falling out with the coach over team rules. The two eventually put the dispute aside and Batistuta was recalled for the tournament. In the game against Jamaica, he recorded the second hat-trick of his World Cup career, becoming the fourth player to achieve this (the others were Sándor Kocsis, Just Fontaine, and Gerd Müller) and the first to score a hat-trick in two World Cups. Argentina were knocked out of the World Cup by the Netherlands courtesy of a last minute Dennis Bergkamp winner after the two sides had held out for a 1–1 draw for almost the entire match.

After a good series of performances by Argentina in the qualification matches for the 2002 World Cup, hopes were high that the South Americans – now managed by Marcelo Bielsa – could win the trophy, and Batistuta announced that he planned to quit the national team at the end of the tournament, which Argentina aimed to win. But Argentina's "group of death" saw the team fall at the first hurdle, only managing a victory against Nigeria (Batistuta scored the match's only goal). They later fell to England 1–0 and managed a mere 1–1 tie against Sweden. This meant that the team was knocked out in the opening round for the first time since 1962.

Style of play[edit]

A quick, hard-working, and powerful player, with an eye for goal and a good all-round game, Batistuta is considered one of the most complete, feared and prolific strikers of his generation. As a forward, he was primarily known for his technique, offensive movement off the ball, strength in the air, and powerful, clinical finishing ability with both feet from anywhere on the pitch, despite being naturally right-footed; he also possessed an excellent positional sense, as well as an ability to anticipate defenders in the area, score acrobatic goals from volleys or bicycle kicks, and strike the ball first time from tight angles while on the run. He was also highly regarded due to his accurate heading and powerful free-kick taking abilities; although he was a competent penalty taker, his conversion rate from the spot throughout his career was less reliable, however. In addition to his skill and goalscoring abilities, Batistuta frequently stood out on the pitch throughout his career due to his leadership and fair-play.[7][35][36][37][38][39] Diego Maradona stated that Batistuta is the best striker he has ever seen play the game.[40][41] Despite his ability, he suffered several injuries throughout his career, which often limited his playing time and fitness, in particular in his later career, and eventually forced him to retire prematurely.[42][43][44][45][46]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1999 Muñeca brava Himself Episode 99; features a scene in which Batistuta is interviewed by Natalia Oreiro

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

Club Season League Cup[47] Continental[48] Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Newell's 1988–89 16 4 5 3 21 7
Total 16 4 5 3 21 7
River Plate 1989–90 19 3 19 3
Total 19 3 19 3
Boca Juniors 1990–91 30 13 10 6 39 19
Total 30 13 10 6 39 19
Fiorentina 1991–92 27 13 3 1 30 14
1992–93 32 16 3 3 35 19
1993–94 26 16 4 3 2 2 32 21
1994–95 32 26 5 2 37 28
1995–96 31 19 8 8 39 27
1996–97 32 13 3 2 7 4 42 19
1997–98 31 21 5 3 37 24
1998–99 28 21 6 4 3 1 37 26
1999–00 30 23 3 0 11 6 44 29
Total 269 168 40 26 23 13 332 207
Roma 2000–01 28 20 0 0 3 1 31 21
2001–02 23 6 1 0 8 0 32 6
2002–03 12 4 2 1 6 1 20 6
Total 63 30 3 1 17 2 83 33
Internazionale 2002–03 12 2 12 2
Total 12 2 12 2
Career Total 430 245 43 27 55 24 528 296

International[edit]

[a][49]

Argentina national team
Year Apps Goals
1991 7 6
1992 5 6
1993 15 6
1994 10 6
1995 10 7
1996 5 3
1997 2 0
1998 12 12
1999 2 2
2000 5 4
2001 1 1
2002 3 1
Total 77 54

International goals[edit]

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

River Plate
Boca Juniors
Fiorentina
Roma

International[edit]

Argentina

Individual[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "56 goals in 78 appearances according to some sources, including FIFA, although the Argentine Football Association does not recognise two goals Batistuta scored in a 6–0 home win against the Slovakia national youth side on 22 June 1995, in Mendoza.[1]

References[edit]

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  47. ^ Includes Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, and Emir of Qatar Cup.
  48. ^ Includes Copa Libertadores, Anglo-Italian Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
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External links[edit]