Words: James Bird
Image: Offside Sports Photography

With a handsome face that somehow looked like Nicholas Cage had been painted by a Baroque artist and put through an E-fit at the local police station, Gabriel Omar Batistuta made defenders and goalies wet their pants for 17 years. The way he kicked a football towards the goalposts was brutal, a real form of articulate savagery. When Batistuta decided to hit the ball, the ball stayed hit. Big time. Batigol made Batigols happen.

His technique was a bristling washing line of legs and arms and head and hair, and  his name was one that, even if you didn’t watch Fiorentina in Serie A every week, you’d see and think ‘Ah, Batistuta—he’s good. I know he’s good.’ 

His name sounded royal. He was one of the Three Wise Men bringing us goals, frankincense, and myrrh. And when you added the hair and the marble green eyes and the shirt tucked in, you knew he was a very royal man indeed. A man who sits on a throne made of goalposts each evening. Batistuta will be playing tonight, the commentator would say, and you’d look forward to your eyes being open for the next two hours. He came to Old Trafford and made Jaap Stam look like your nan searching for the Werther’s Original she’d dropped on the floor at a bus stop. He went to Fiorentina and stayed there for nine years, scoring 207 goals in 333 appearances. He went to three World Cups and bagged two hat-tricks. Batigol made Batigols happen.

Overall, Batistuta scored 54 goals in 77 appearances for Argentina—winning consecutive Copa América trophies in 1991 and 1993. He played for three of the biggest boys in South America—Newell’s, River Plate, and Boca, before moving to Fiorentina and then Roma—where he won the Serie A title. After a brief stint on loan at Inter, Batistuta ended his career in Qatar for Al-Arabi, where he knocked in 25 goals in 22 games to break the Qatari goalscoring record.

Here’s nine of his best:

Roma v Fiorentina (2000)

This one here is this for his new club Roma against Fiorentina, the team he played for for nine years. The volley is violent, the commentator is going ballistic, his tears are extremely real.

Argentina v Paraguay (1998)

It’s 1998 now. Things are very pixelated, and Batistuta’s hair is shorter. Coiffed. Like his aunt cut it for a christening. Watch the way he hits this free kick, though. Sends the goalie for a little walk on his own. The Argentinians are beside themselves.

Argentina v Colombia (1999)

God, he’s handsome. God, he seems well-mannered. God, he’s just ran the length of the pitch and chipped over the goalie with his left foot. It’s time for Colombia to go home, and time for you, Gabriel, to sit on your throne.

Fiorentina v Manchester United (2000)

One of those big Old Trafford European nights under the lights and after sixteen minutes Batistuta does this. Stam is still looking for his sweets, Bosnich is still on a comedown, and the lads behind the goal can’t believe what they’ve just seen. It’s the Batigol’s Batigolazo.

Fiorentina v Vicenza (1996)

Little ball in between the two centre backs, that’s right. Flick the ball up over their heads with your heel while at full pelt, that’s right. Knock it past the keeper into the net with your weaker foot, that’s right.

Fiorentina v Vicenza (1997)

Got kicked in the balls when I was in year 5 by a kid in year 8. I’d pushed in the queue for the ice cream man on the car park after school, and the bigger kid asked me what the fuck I was doing. I looked at him and said “Come on, then”, because I'd heard other kids say that in this sort of situation. He kicked me in the balls with his big Rockports and said, “Look at this little twat standing there waiting for his balls to drop", and everyone laughed. I was silent and rooted, just like the keeper here. What a hit.

Fiorentina v Barcelona (1997)

He silences 105,000 people at Camp Nou with this one, another act of volley-violence. The ball ripples. Ranieri, his manager, walks off shaking his head. The Barca fans start to nod and clap.

Fiorentina v Milan (1998)

Scores a hat-trick in this game, and finishes it off with an indirect free kick thwack. Don’t see enough of them, really. Don't see enough of them at all.

Roma v Verona (2000)

Usually, when you hit a free kick, you try to hit it as far away from the keeper as possible. Give him as little chance, like. Batistuta, here, just aims for the poor bastards head. It’s a goal.

Ah, Gabriel Batistuta. They don't make them like him anymore. What they, or rather we, do make, though, is a magazine. You can order our latest to your door here, or subscribe to get all of them through your door here.

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