Gabriel Batistuta is a retired Argentine footballer, who played as a striker for his country and remains the highest ever goal scorer at the international level for Argentina. Batistuta was not interested in football as a child but after Argentina won their first ever World Cup in 1978, he got hooked to the sport and started to take it far more seriously as the years went by. He played for Newell’s Old Boys club in Argentina and then went on to play for two of the biggest clubs in the country - River Plate and Boca Juniors. Batistuta shot to fame when he helped Argentina win the Copa America in 1991 and following his stupendous performance, he was bought by Italian club Fiorentina. Batistuta played for Fiorentina for 9 seasons. Although he scored a number of goals for the club, he could not help them win the Italian league title. However, that ambition was fulfilled when he moved to Roma and helped them win the league in his very first season. Batistuta also played in three World Cups for Argentina and scored 8 goals in total, including two hat tricks which made him the first player to have scored hat tricks in two different World Cups.
Childhood & Early Life
Gabriel Omar Batistuta was born in Avellaneda, Santa Fe, Argentina on 1st February 1969 to Omar Batistuta and Gloria Zilli. His father was employed at a slaughterhouse while his mother worked as a secretary in a school. Batistuta was the eldest of four children.
Following Argentina’s first World Cup win in 1978, Batistuta was inspired to take up football seriously. Like many South American footballers, he started off by playing street football and joined the little known club Grupo Algeria. Subsequently he moved to the junior team of Platense.
In 1988, he joined Newell’s Old Boys club based in Rosario after scoring 2 goals in a game against the club but his time at the club was not fruitful as he could not adapt in a new city and also suffered from weight problems. Batistuta netted 7 times for the club and helped them reach the final of Copa Libertadores. He also played on loan for Deportivo Italiano, a relatively minor club.
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He joined Argentine giants River Plate in 1989 but did not have a successful time at the club as he hardly got to play many games so the following year he moved to Boca Juniors, one of the biggest clubs in Argentina. Batistuta came into his own at Boca Juniors as he scored 13 league goals for the club and helped them win the league.
In 1991, Batistuta was selected to play for the Argentine national team for the Copa America and he helped the team win the tournament by scoring six goals. Batistuta emerged as the top scorer in the tournament and subsequently signed for Italian club Fiorentina, who were impressed by his performance at the tournament.
He became a key member of the Fiorentina team after joining the club in 1991 and became one of the most prolific scorers in the Italian league. In his fourth season at the club, he became the top scorer in the league with a total of 26 goals and helped the club win the Supercoppa as well as the Coppa Italia. However, the coveted first division title continued to elude the club throughout the 9 seasons that he spent at the club. He scored 168 league goals for Fiorentina.
In 1993, he helped Argentina win the Copa America and scored two goals in the final to round off the tournament. The following year at the World Cup in USA, Argentina were knocked out in the round of 16 but Batistuta scored 4 goals and also netted a hat trick.
In the 1998 World Cup in France, Batistuta scored a hat trick in the group stage game against Jamaica and earned the rare distinction of being only the fourth player to have scored two hat tricks in World Cup competition. However, Argentina was knocked out in the quarter finals. At the following World Cup in Japan and Korea, Argentina was knocked out in the first round.
Batistuta scored 56 goals in 78 appearances for Argentina and remains the nation’s highest ever goal scorer.
In 2000, Batistuta left Fiorentina and joined Italian club Roma in a record deal. Although 31 at the time, he was still a highly rated forward and helped Roma win the Italian league title in his very first season. In the process, Batistuta was able to fulfil his long cherished ambition of winning the Italian league title. He stayed at Roma for three years and scored 30 league goals in total.
After a loss of form, Batistuta was loaned to Inter Milan in 2003 and although he played only 12 games for the Milan based club, he scored 2 goals and also set up plenty of goals for his team mates. The same year, he joined Qatari club Al-Arabi in a lucrative deal amounting to $8 million and played there for two years. He scored 25 goals in 21 games in Qatar and became the record holder for most goals scored.
Awards & Achievements
Batistuta is the highest ever goal scorer for Argentina with a total of 56 goals.
He is the all time top scorer in the history of Fiorentina with 184 goals to his name.
He was included in ‘FIFA 100’, a list compiled by Pele on the greatest living players.
Personal Life & Legacy
Batistuta got married to his teenage girlfriend Irina Fernandez on 28 December 1990. The couple has four sons- Thiago, Lucas, Joaquin and Shamel.