Happy birthday, Batigol

Today is the 50th birthday of Fiorentina legend and Roma Scudetto winner Gabriel Batistuta.

The man who would become known as ‘Batigol’ was born in the Argentinian village of Avellaneda on February 1, 1969.

With Italian heritage, his goalscoring feats for Argentina in the 1991 Copa America caught the eye of Fiorentina, who brought him to Serie A for the 1991-92 season.

His impact was immediate, scoring 13 goals in 27 league games, but the Viola were a poor side at the time.

In the following season, despite Batistuta’s 16 goals, they were relegated to Serie B and it appeared their talisman would certainly move on.

However, the Argentine opted to stay at the Artemio Franchi, and he scored the goals under Claudio Ranieri that would win promotion back to the top flight.

The following season Batistuta really exploded, scoring 26 goals in 32 games to become Capocannoniere before helping the Viola to fourth place in the 1995-96 season.

That campaign also brought a first taste of silverware, with the Tuscans winning the Coppa Italia in a two-legged final against Atalanta.

While the 1996-97 season brought a Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final, the Scudetto appeared to be constantly beyond both Fiorentina and their superstar striker.

Giovanni Trapattoni was brought in to try and ensure a Scudetto challenge, and Batigol rose to the challenge with 17 goals in the first 17 rounds.

Just when it appeared though that a first title since 1969 was finally on the horizon though, Batistuta picked up an injury after scoring a hat-trick against Milan.

The Viola’s form stuttered and they could only finish third, despite the Argentine’s 21 goals in 28 games.

The following season would prove to be his last with Fiorentina, but his 23 Serie A goals saw Batistuta surpass Kurt Hamrin as the club’s all-time Serie A top goalscorer with 152.

That summer Roma President Franco Sensi, at the urging of Coach Fabio Capello and under pressure from fans, paid a club record fee to bring Batistuta to the Eternal City.

It was there that Batigol finally tasted Scudetto glory, scoring 20 goals for the Giallorossi as they pipped Juventus by two points.

Following that though a series of knee injuries began to take their toll on Batistuta, and he managed just 12 goals in the subsequent two seasons.

A brief spell at Inter brought two goals in 12 games, and it became clear that the great striker was a spent force.

By the time of his retirement, Batistuta was top-scorer for Argentina with 54 goals in 77 games, a record which is surpassed only by Lionel Messi, whose 61 goals have come in 123 caps.

It is at Fiorentina though that Batistuta will be forever revered, thanks to an incredible 207 goals in 332 appearances.

A statue of him was erected under the Curva Fiesole in 1996, depicting the man known forever as Batigol as a conquering gladiator.

Few in the glorious history of the Viola have been more deserving.

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