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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Batistuta signs for Qatar's Al Arabi

Batistuta signs for Qatar's Al Arabi

August 18, 2003 16:57 IST

Former Argentine international Gabriel Batistuta formally signed a two-year contract worth $8 million with Qatar's Al Arabi Sports Club on Sunday.

The 34-year-old will be paid $5 million in the first year and $3 million in the second year to train Qatari footballers and play for the club, said a source close to Al Arabi.

Batistuta, Argentina's leading goalscorer with 56 goals in 78 appearances, said he took the Al Arabi offer because Qatar had fascinated him on his first visit during the finals of the Emiri Cup in 2002.

"I saw a big challenge in Qatar and that was the main reason behind opting for this offer. I would like to give my best and score as many goals as possible for my new team," Batistuta told reporters.

Batistuta, who made his name at Boca Juniors and then Fiorentina before spells at AS Roma and Inter Milan, retired from international football after last year's World Cup, his third.

"I would have loved to finish my career in Argentina, but it does not seem likely now. I don't want to play there in a bad state," he added.

Batistuta began his career at Newell's Old Boys before a move to one of Argentina's "big two", River Plate. After getting little first team action with River, he moved to their arch-rivals Boca in 1991 and his career took off.


He scored six goals to help Argentina win the 1991 Copa America, the South American championship, in Chile and was then transferred to Fiorentina for whom he scored 168 goals in 269 league appearances in nine seasons.

Batistuta retained the Copa America with Argentina in Ecuador in 1993 but he failed in three attempts to win soccer's biggest prize, the World Cup.

He helped Argentina reach the second round of the 1994 World Cup in the United States and the quarter-finals in France four years later.

But last year's tournament in Japan and South Korea, which Argentina started as favourites, was a huge disappointment for Batistuta when they failed to qualify from the first round group stage.

However, Batistuta, who confirmed his retirement from the international game after Argentina's elimination in Japan, took his tally to 10 as his country's leading World Cup scorer. The total includes hat-tricks in 1994 and 1998.

Batistuta was loyal to Fiorentina for nine years, including a season relegated to Serie B, but starved of Serie A success which he achieved at Roma when he helped them win the title in 2001. He won the Italian Cup with Fiorentina in 1996.

His goalscoring powers waning fast, he moved on to Inter last season as an understudy for his heir in the Argentina team, Hernan Crespo, and had been linked with a move to England.

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