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Gabriel Omar Batistuta (born 1 February 1969), nicknamed Batigol, is a former professional footballer. The prolific Argentinemarker striker played most of his club football at Fiorentina in Italymarker, and he is the ninth top scorer of all time in the Italian Serie A league, with 184 goals in 318 matches between 1991 and 2003. On the international level, he is the all-time highest scorer for Argentina's national team, with 56 goals in 78 national team matches, and he represented his country at three World Cups. In 2004, he was named in the FIFA 100 list of the "125 Greatest Living Footballers".

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. 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 Fiorentina. He never won the Italian league with Fiorentina, but when he moved to Roma in 2000, he finally won the Serie A championship to crown his career in Italy. He played his last professional season in Qatarmarker with Al-Arabi before he retired in 2005.

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup he worked as a commentator for Televisa Deportes.

Personal life

Batistuta was born on 1 February 1969, to slaughterhouse worker Omar Batistuta and school secretary Gloria Batistuta, in the town of Avellaneda, , but grew up in the near city of Reconquista. He has three younger sisters, named Elisa, Alejandra, and Gabriela.

At the age of 16, he met Irina Fern√°ndez, his future wife, at her quincea√Īera, a rite of passage on her 15th birthday. She is reported to have ignored him but five years later, on 28 December 1990, they were married at Saint Roque Church. The couple moved to Florencemarker, 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 1996, during Fiorentina's 2-1 victory at Milan, he celebrated scoring the match's decisive goal by saying Te amo, Irina ('I love you, Irina', to his wife) for the cameras. The mix of sex appeal and faithfulness cemented Batistuta's heart-throb reputation among Argentine and Italian women. 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 Romemarker, where he played for Roma. Two years after Shamel was born, Batistuta was loaned to Inter. In 2002, after more than 10 years in Italy, the family moved to Qatarmarker 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 Perthmarker, 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.

Club career

Early career

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 Rosariomarker. His 2 goals drew the attention of the opposition team, and he signed for them in 1988.

Newell's Old Boys

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 Airesmarker, with whom he participated in the Carnevale Cup in Italy, ending as top scorer with 3 goals.

River Plate
In mid-1989, Batistuta made the leap to one of Argentina's biggest clubs, River Plate, where he scored 17 goals. However, all did not run smoothly. He had numerous run-ins with coach Daniel Passarella (with whom he had later confrontations on the national squad) and he was dropped from the squad in the middle of the season.

Boca Juniors

In 1990, Batistuta signed for River's arch-rivals, Boca Juniors. Having gone so long without playing, he initially found it hard to find his best form. However, at the beginning of 1991 Oscar Tab√°rez became Boca's coach, and he gave Batistuta the support and confidence to become the league's top scorer that season as Boca won the championship.

Fiorentina

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 (Serie A 1992-93) Fiorentina lost in the relegation battle and were demoted to the Serie B division, despite Batistuta's 16 season 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.

At Fiorentina, Batistuta found his best form. He was the top scorer of the 1994-95 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 Fiorentina won the Italian Cup and Super Coppa.

After 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, which gave them the chance to participate in the Champions League in the following season.

Scudetto with Roma

Batistuta stayed at Fiorentina for the 1999-00 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 $35 million. Although a knee injury restricted his number of appearances, he scored 20 goals for Roma in his first season. He finally realized his dream of winning a major trophy as Roma clinched the Scudetto 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.

Late career

Batistuta failed to find form with Roma and was loaned out to Internazionale; however, he failed to make an impression (scoring 2 goals) and departed for Qatari team Al-Arabi. In Qatar, he broke the record for most goals scored that was held by Qatari Legend Mansour Mouftah by scoring 24 goals. He scored more goals for the club than the number of games he played. He was awarded for being the top scorer in all Arab leagues in 2004 with a Golden Boot.

International career

In 1991, Batistuta was selected to play for Argentina in the Copa América held in Chilemarker, where he finished the tournament as top scorer with six goals as Argentina romped to victory.

In 1993, Batistuta played in his second Copa América, this time held in Ecuadormarker, which Argentina again won. The 1994 World Cup, held in USAmarker, 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.

During the qualification matches for the 1990 World Cup (with former River Plate manager Daniel Passarella now coaching the Argentine team) Batistuta was left out of the majority of the games after falling out with the coach. Playing in the World Cup finals themselves, he scored 5 goals in that competition, before Argentina lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. In the game against Jamaica, he recorded the second hat trick of his World Cup career, becoming the 4th player to achieve this (the others were S√°ndor Kocsis, Just Fontaine, and Gerd M√ľller) and the first to score a hat trick in 2 World Cups.

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. 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.

Retirement

Batistuta retired in 2005 and moved to Perth, Australia. Despite having completed his coaching badges in Argentina, he currently has no involvement with football (instead he prefers to play golf). He expressed an interest in coaching Australia's national team and Argentina's team.

Career statistics



Honours

  • Serie A (Division 1) Italian Championship (with Roma) 2000-2001
  • Italian Supercup (with ACF Fiorentina) 1996, (with Roma) 2001
  • Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year 1998
  • Italian Cup (with Fiorentina) 1995-96
  • Serie A Capocannoniere (Top Scorer), 26 goals (with Fiorentina) 1994-95
  • Coppa Italia Top Scorer (8 goals) 1995-96
  • Copa Am√©rica (with Argentina) 1991, 1993
  • Copa Am√©rica Top Scorer, 6 goals (with Argentina) 1991
  • Top Scorer of The Qatari League with a record breaking 25 goals in 21 games
  • Top Scorer in all Arab leagues, awarded with a Golden Boot
  • Batistuta set a new Serie A record by scoring in 11 consecutive Serie A games
  • Top goalscorer for Argentina (56 goals)
  • Top goalscorer for Fiorentina (168 goals)
  • Serie A 9th Top Goalscorer of all times with 184 goals
  • Confederations Cup (with Argentina) 1992
  • FIFA 100
  • FIFA World Player of the Year 3rd Place 1999
  • Copa Kirin:
  • Winners (1): 1992
1988-89 Newell's Old Boys Primera División 16 4
1989-90 River Plate Primera División 7 4
1989-90 Boca Juniors Primera División 10 2
1990-91 19 11

1991-92 Fiorentina Serie A 27 13
1992-93 32 16
1993-94 Serie B 26 16
1994-95 Serie A 32 26
1995-96 31 19 8
1996-97 32 13 1
1997-98 31 21 3
1998-99 28 21 5 1
1999-00 30 23 6
2000-01 Roma Serie A 28 20
2001-02 23 6
2002-03 12 4 1 1
2002-03 Internazionale Serie A 12 2

2003-04 Al-Arabi 18 25
2004-05 3 0
52||21||||||||||||||||
344||200||||||||||||||||
21||25||||||||||||||||
417||246||||||||||||||||
Artemio Franchi Trophy
*Winner (1): 1993


References

  1. Gabriel Batistuta History - His Fans
  2. Batistuta linked with Perth Glory bid, TribalFootball, 22 April 2006
  3. Argentine great keen to coach Socceroos


External links




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