Many moments and situations in Gabriel Batistuta's career are known: that he is an idol of Fiorentina, where he even has a statue; that he was the top scorer of the Argentine National Team until Lionel Messi pulverized his mark; that he started at Newell's, where as a teenager he lived in the club's austere boarding house, and that he finished his career in the millionaire Emirate of Qatar.
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However, what is not so well known is the story of the failed move to Barcelona, just before becoming one of the best signings in Fiorentina's history. This tremendous scorer in world football, who turns 55, had had a very good season in Boca (1990-1991), which he crowned with the title of the Copa América in Chile '91 with the National Team. And his future was in Europe.
Gabriel Batistuta shone with the 9 at Fiorentina (Photo: AP)
And there, Johan Cruyff's famous Dream Team appeared on his radar, having just won the Spanish League and was on its way to winning the Champions League a year later. It was due to a specific recommendation from his representative, the Italian Settimio Aloisio, who spoke personally with Barcelona's talent scout, Josep María Minguella.
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The Catalan, to whom time reserved the privilege of having been the one who recommended Messi in Barcelona, met with Aloisio before Bati's arrival at Fiorentina was finalized. The meeting was at the Hotel Princesa Sofía in the city of Barcelona. There the manager put his good football eye into play: “Gabriel will be the next outstanding scorer in world football.”
It was a fact that Batistuta would play in Europe, because three clubs in Italy wanted to, a field that Aloisio dominated perfectly. But that Barcelona was entering through the front door. Minguella took the information to José Luis Núñez, the president of the Catalan club, who in turn communicated it to Cruyff.
However, they ruled out Bati's arrival because Barcelona had the foreign quota covered. And at that time in Europe, anyone who was not born in the country organizing the tournament was considered a foreigner (since 1996, the Bosman Law treated Europeans or descendants with a community passport as citizens of the same nationality).
Gabriel Omar Batistuta was a tremendous scorer, who had his peak performance in the 90s at Fiorentina in Italy.
And the Dream Team already had three: Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Ronald Koeman (Netherlands). And one who arrived a year later as the fourth foreigner: the Brazilian Romario.
Gabriel Batistuta turns 55: the scorer who had to change clubs to win a league
Gabriel Omar Batistuta was born on February 1, 1969, five kilometers from the Santa Fe city of Reconquista. He came to the Newell's Juniors as a teenager. His condition, especially his physical power, was as evident as his passion for food. At that time he met a strict youth technical director who put him on a diet: Marcelo Bielsa.
The pension was not just a bed and a roof for Bati, but a life lesson about austerity, perseverance and the value of fighting to achieve things, an example that he followed from his father, Omar, and that he sought to pass on to his four children to the point of making them work to earn a living even knowing that they will never lack anything.
“For my children to work is to give them dignity. I could easily give them a car, but I don't know if they would feel happy, I don't know how long that happiness would last,” he knew how to argue. Much of that perseverance allowed him to be who he was in football.
Gabriel Batistuta with the youngest of his four children, Shamel, who was born in Qatar, in Batigol's last stage in football. (Photo: Instagram/ @gabrielbatistutaok)
He debuted in Newell's Primera in September 1988 and a year later he was transferred to River, where things did not go well for him, especially from the moment Daniel Passarella took over as coach, who did not want him. In fact, the following year, he went to Boca and began to be Batigol.
He stopped being a forward who played from the outside to become a relentless man in the area. Starting in 1991 there were nine seasons at Fiorentina, with 168 goals in 269 games, one Italian Cup and one Italian Super Cup. However, to make an Olympic comeback for being champion of Serie A (the main Italian tournament) he had to go to Rome.
The same for being an international champion: he did not win any title with a club (after Rome he moved to Inter and then to the Qatari Al-Arabi SC) but he did with the Argentine National Team, where he won the 1991 and 1993 Copa América and was able to win. the pleasure of playing in three World Cups: United States 94, France 98 and Korea-Japan 2002.
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The years, but especially the pain, joint problems in the knees and mainly in the ankles (a consequence of many infiltrations) led him to abandon football and cry because of the physical pain that pushed him to the point of asking the doctor to cut off his feet. .
But there were other trauma techniques that helped him get out of the pain and be able to lead a normal life, threatening to get back into football but betting more on the agricultural sector as the owner of several fields in Reconquista. Of course, always with the certainty of walking everywhere feeling the unanimous recognition of football fans.