When Calcio Ruled The World: Gabriel Batistuta

Diego Maradona claimed that Gabriel Batistuta was the best striker that has ever graced the face of the earth. No greater praise can be heaped on the man known as “Batigol”, whose powerful play and deadly ability in the box made him feared throughout his career.

Fiorentina have often had (and still have) fantastic offensive players but none have compared to Batistuta. In 1991, when he signed from Boca Juniors, nobody could have foreseen the impact he would have on Italian football.

In nine years in Florence, Batistuta received almost religious adulation from the Curva Fiesole. This fervent worship of their new hero was created through his god-given ability to score goals. Serie A was in its pomp and known throughout the world for boasting some of the toughest defences of all time. Without exception, all of them feared Batigol like he was the devil himself.

He is in the top 10 all-time leading goalscorers in Serie A history, having scored 168 goals in 269 games for Fiorentina and 184 goals in 318 matches in his time in Italy. He scored a goal every 1.7 matches.

Batistuta did not seek the limelight and was a loyal servant to the Viola. He stayed with the club when they were relegated to Serie B and helped them return to the top flight in the 1992-93 season. He turned down moves from bigger clubs, but unfortunately his loyalty was never rewarded with a Serie A title at Fiorentina.

When he eventually left the club, he walked away with a Serie B medal, a Coppa Italia winner’s medal and a Super Coppa Italiana trinket. The nearest he got to the title was in the 1998-99 season, when Fiorentina looked destined to win the title before Batigol pulled a hamstring and they missed out to Milan.

Roma eventually turned his head in 2000 and he left the Renaissance city and transferred his predatory instincts to the Eternal City. There he would also become a legend, helping Roma to win only their third title in a season that will go down in Giallorossi history. He scored 30 times in 63 games for Roma before being loaned to Inter.

He had everything: power, pace, skill, aerial ability, confidence and seemingly never-ending form. It is hard to think of another striker from this era who was more complete or deadly. When Calcio ruled the world, Maradona was watching and thinking “nobody is better than Batigol”.

By Richard Hall: @RichHall80