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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Batistuta given last chance to conquer again

Batistuta given last chance to conquer again

January 18, 2003 17:36 IST
Gabriel Batistuta was born in the Argentine town of Reconquista and conquer again is exactly what Inter Milan are hoping the 33-year-old will be able to do at the San Siro stadium.

Inter's move to secure Batistuta in a loan deal from Roma may have been motivated simply by the urgent need to replace the injured Hernan Crespo but it also hands the former Fiorentina striker a chance to end his career in glory.

Until his compatriot Crespo ripped his hamstring in last Sunday's win over Modena, Batistuta looked set to see out the rest of his contract at troubled Roma on the bench before a free transfer, probably outside Italy, in the close season.

That would have been a sad way for an outstanding footballer, Argentina's all-time top scorer, and greatly respected man to have finished a career that has been as proud as it has been prolific.

Two-and-a-half years ago Roma president Franco Sensi paid $33.8 million to Fiorentina to lure Batistuta to the capital and, while judging value for money in a time of shrinking transfer fees is nearly impossible, the deal certainly delivered on its promise.

After nine years in Florence in which an Italian Cup was the only medal Batistuta won, Roma offered the striker a realistic chance to win a `scudetto' before retiring.

Roma themselves had waited 18 years for a league title and the combination of Batistuta with their homegrown playmaker Francesco Totti looked a sure bet to end their barren years.

The arrangement worked instantly -- 20 goals in 28 matches from the Argentine helped Roma beat Juventus into top spot and sent the capital into a month-long celebration.

It was not easy for Batistuta to leave Fiorentina -- after all he had stuck with them when they were relegated to Serie B at the end of his second season at the club in 1993.



established as one of the world's top strikers Batistuta could easily have chosen a lucrative move elsewhere, but instead his goals helped return the Florence club to the top flight and ensured him a place in the heart of every Florentine.

So admired was `Batigol' that the Fiorentina fans erected an improvised statue to him behind the stands and when rumours began that he was to finally leave the club fans camped outside his villa all night with banners urging him to stay.

The affection was returned and after a hat-trick in his final match for La Viola, Batistuta broke down in tears in front of the supporters.

Even now, after Fiorentina's bankruptcy left the city to start from scratch with a new club in Serie C2 Florentia, there remain many supporters convinced Batistuta will one day return as player, coach, or more likely president, to help the club restore top flight football to the Tuscan city.

But before such romantic ideas can be considered Batistuta has one last bit of hard business to take care of.

As at Fiorentina and Roma, he finds himself again at a club where success is long overdue.

Inter have not won the Serie A title since 1989 and suffered the agony last season of the scudetto slipping through their grip on the final day of the season.

Cuper has assembled a tough, hard-working and effective side built around solid defence, a grafting midfield and the powerful strikeforce of Italy's Christian Vieri and Crespo. That blend has put them joint-top of Serie A with rivals AC Milan.

But last week's injury to Crespo exposed the lack of cover in Cuper's attack and raised fears that fate had again turned against Inter and their long-suffering supporters.

Who better then to turn to than the man from Reconquista?

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