Gabriel Omar Batistuta nicknamed Batigol as well as El Ángel Gabriel (Spanish for Angel Gabriel), is a retired Argentine professional footballer. When his club Fiorentina was relegated to Serie B in 1993, Batistuta stayed with the club and helped it return to the top-flight league a year later. He became a popular sporting figure in Florence; the Fiorentina fans erected a life-size bronze statue of him in 1996, in recognition of his performances for the club. Despite winning the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana with the club in 1996, he never won the Italian league with Fiorentina, but when he moved to Roma in 2000, he finally won the Serie A title to crown his career in Italy. After an unsuccessful loan spell with Inter in 2003, he played his last two seasons in Qatar with Al-Arabi before he retired in 2005. At international level, he was Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer with 56 goals in 78 official matches,[a] a record he held until 2016. Batistuta played at three World Cups, scoring 10 goals, which makes him Argentina’s all-time top scorer in the competition, and the joint eighth-highest World Cup goalscorer of all time. Batistuta is the only player in football history to score two hat-tricks in different World Cups. With the Argentina national team he won two consecutive Copa América titles and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation, in 1999, Batistuta placed third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award, and in 2004 he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
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While playing for Argentina in the 1991 Copa América, the vice-president of Fiorentina was impressed by Batistuta’s skills and signed him. He had a fine start in Serie A, scoring 13 goals in his debut season. However, the following season, in 1992–93, Fiorentina lost in the relegation battle and were demoted to Serie B, despite Batistuta’s 16 league goals. The club returned to Serie A after one season in Serie B, with the contribution of 16 goals from Batistuta and the management of Claudio Ranieri, as Fiorentina captured the 1993–94 Serie B title. At Fiorentina, Batistuta found his best form. He was the top scorer of the 1994–95 Serie A season with 26 goals, and he broke Ezio Pascutti’s 30-year-old record by scoring in all of the first 11 matches of the season. In the 1995–96 season, Batistuta, alongside Manuel Rui Costa and Francesco Baiano, helped the club to go on a 15-match unbeaten run, as they eventually ended the season with a fourth-place league finish. Fiorentina also won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana over Milan; in the two-legged Coppa Italia final against Atalanta, Batistuta scored a goal in each fixture as Fiorentina won 3–0 on aggregate. The next season was less successful, as Fiorentina finished in a disappointing ninth place in the league, although the team managed to reach the semi-finals of the 1996–97 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, losing out to eventual champions Barcelona, despite scoring a goal in a 1–1 away draw in the first leg. After his failure to win the Italian championship with Fiorentina, Batistuta started considering a transfer to a bigger team. In an effort to keep Batistuta, Fiorentina hired Giovanni Trapattoni as coach and promised to do everything to win the Scudetto. After an excellent start to the season, Batistuta suffered an injury that kept him out of action for more than a month. Losing momentum, Fiorentina lost the lead and finished the season in third place, although the result enabled them to participate in the Champions League the following season. The 1999-2000 season was the last Gabriel Batistuta season with Fiorentina A.C. before he moves to Roma A.S. The player scored 23 goals and he was the 2nd Serie A top scorer just behind Shevchenko. Fiorentina A.C. successfully passed the first Champions League group just behind Barcelona F.C. In this season Fiorentina F.C. won 1-0 against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium with a super goal of Gabriel Batistuta and it became the first Italian team to win in that stadium.
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A quick, hard-working, and powerful player, with an eye for goal and a good all-round game, Batistuta is considered one of the most complete, feared and prolific strikers of his generation. As a forward, he was primarily known for his technique, offensive movement off the ball, strength in the air, and powerful, clinical finishing ability with both feet from anywhere on the pitch, despite being naturally right-footed; he also possessed an excellent positional sense, as well as an ability to anticipate defenders in the area, score acrobatic goals from volleys or bicycle kicks, and strike the ball first time from tight angles while on the run. He was also highly regarded due to his accurate heading and powerful free-kick taking abilities; although he was a competent penalty taker, his conversion rate from the spot throughout his career was less reliable, however. In addition to his skill and goalscoring abilities, Batistuta frequently stood out on the pitch throughout his career due to his leadership and fair-play. Diego Maradona stated that Batistuta is the best striker he has ever seen play the game. Despite his ability, he suffered several injuries throughout his career, which often limited his playing time and fitness, in particular in his later career, and eventually forced him to retire prematurely.
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In 1991, Batistuta was selected to play for Argentina in the Copa América held in Chile, where he finished the tournament as top scorer with six goals as Argentina romped to victory. The following year, he won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Argentina, finishing as the tournament’s top-scorer. In 1993, Batistuta played in his second Copa América, this time held in Ecuador, which Argentina won with Batistuta scoring both goals in a 2–1 win over Mexico in the final. The 1994 World Cup, held in the United States, was a disappointment. After a promising start Argentina were beaten by Romania in the last 16. The morale of the team was seriously affected by Diego Maradona’s doping suspension. Despite the disappointing Argentine exit, Batistuta scored four goals in as many games, including a hat-trick in their opening game against Greece. During the qualification matches for the 1998 World Cup (with former River Plate manager Daniel Passarella) Batistuta was left out of the majority of the games after falling out with the coach over team rules. The two eventually put the dispute aside and Batistuta was recalled for the tournament. In the game against Jamaica, he recorded the second hat-trick of his World Cup career, becoming the fourth player to achieve this (the others were Sándor Kocsis, Just Fontaine, and Gerd Müller) and the first to score a hat-trick in two World Cups. Argentina were knocked out of the World Cup by the Netherlands courtesy of a last minute Dennis Bergkamp winner after the two sides had held out for a 1–1 draw for almost the entire match. After a good series of performances by Argentina in the qualification matches for the 2002 World Cup, hopes were high that the South Americans – now managed by Marcelo Bielsa – could win the trophy, and Batistuta announced that he planned to quit the national team at the end of the tournament, which Argentina aimed to win. But Argentina’s “group of death” saw the team fall at the first hurdle, only managing a victory against Nigeria (Batistuta scored the match’s only goal). They later fell to England 1–0 and managed a mere 1–1 tie against Sweden. This meant that the team was knocked out in the opening round for the first time since 1962.