When you consider Argentina in a footballing sense, it is indeed fair to state that they’ve produced some of the best players in the entire history of the sport. Diego Maradona is arguably the best player to ever play the game, while Mario Kempes, Alfredo di Stefano, Daniel Passarella, Omar Sivori, Jose Manuel Moreno, Ubaldo Fillol and indeed Lionel Messi are all at the very top of the footballing pantheon. But despite his contributions and a career that was nothing short of record breaking, Gabriel Batistuta has long since faded from the memory of many.
Batistuta was born to a slaughterhouse worker and a school secretary in the little town of Avellaneda. Surprisingly enough, he was not football-mad at a young age and even preferred to play basketball, but when Argentina lifted the World Cup in 1978 and after being impressed by the talent of the aforementioned Kempes, Batistuta fully committed to football.
After playing for his local side, Batistuta netted a brace against Newell’s Old Boys in a friendly – they signed him in 1987 at the age of 18. A year later he made his professional debut and went on to score four goals in sixteen appearances. Capital giants River Plate snapped him up the following year, and then Boca Juniors would follow suit the year after. Batistuta’s career would truly take off only after completing a year at Boca when Italian club Fiorentina came calling and it’s for the Viola that he would leave his footprint on the beautiful game.
Though he never won the Serie A title while in Florence and only ever managed a single Coppa Italia victory (’95-’96) as well as a securing the Italian Super Cup (1996), Batigol never the less shook the Serie A to the very ground. In nine seasons with Fiorentina he would go on to score 207 goals in all competitions in just 333 appearances, representing an incredible strike rate over such along duration. The 00’-01’ season would see him move to the capital however in an estimated 28.5million pound move to Roma, a deal which remains the most any Serie A club has paid for a player who was over the age of thirty. In that same season he would finally win the Serie A, scoring 20 league goals in the process. After completing two more seasons in Rome, a loan spell to Inter Milan would be on the cards before finishing his career with two finals seasons in Saudi Arabia with Al Arabi.
Despite his immense level of talent, eye for goal and ridiculous shooting ability, Batistuta had chosen to remove himself from the limelight and retire in relative peace. Currently living in Argentina and biding his time on the Polo ground and on the gold course, he did in fact complete all of his coaching badges with the Argentine FA but has no ambitions of being involved with the sport, citing “I don’t like football, it’s only my job.”
The once great goal scorer can now be found running his own construction company, and much like many soldiers who return home to never again put on their uniform, Batistuta seems to be finished with football – a truly sad ending for a player who was voted into the FIFA 100, the Italian Football Hall of Fame, and is the all-time goal scorer for both Fiorentina and his country.
Career by the numbers
– Total club appearances (all competitions): 528
– Total club goals (all competitions): 296
– Total national team appearances: 78
– Total national team goals: 56
Remember to check back in each Friday as we induct another great into the Robin Friday Hipster Hall of Fame. Thank you to Hipster Drew @AFCBvB1410 for this contribution.