“Maybe in 20 years’ time you’ll come and look for me on my farm in Reconquista and ask me about a new Batistuta trying to beat my record.”
As predictions go - just like his thunderbolt shots - Batigol was not too wide of the mark in his post-match interview of November 1994. It has taken close to a quarter of a Century, but his 11 consecutive game Serie A scoring record could be about to tumble. Hands up anyone who had Fabio Quagliarella in the sweepstake?
In a curious twist of fate, Gabriel Omar Batistuta broke previous holder Ezio Pascutti’s mark against Sampdoria - the same team that has finally produced a man to match and possibly surpass him. His heir will now travel to Naples - a city close to the Blucerchiati bomber’s heart - to try to extend his run to a delightful dozen.
If he happens to get a penalty, he could do worse than watch how the Argentinian converted his. It was the kind of “save-me-if-you-dare” thump up the middle that might have ripped the net and carried on right through the Curva Fiesole. Now that’s how you counteract any jangling nerves.
Of course, such moments always provoke comparisons that are hard to sustain. I don’t think - although social media will almost certainly prove me wrong - that anyone could seriously suggest the Samp striker is a match for the Florentine legend. But does that really matter much anyway? Surely it’s possible to appreciate the feats of both men without having to rank them - although it’s a pastime we sports fans often indulge in.
Those who love a technicality will point out that there’s a gap in Quagliarella’s run - a game with Roma where he did not feature - but surely that is churlish. Historians will argue, with some justification, that Serie A in 1994-95 was at or around the peak of its powers with goals harder to get against better sides. Who knows, could we even debate whether it’s harder to do it from the start of the season - Bati-style - or in mid-campaign?
But, dig deeper, and you’ll find it is possible to admire both men in different ways. The Viola hitman was in his pomp - 25 years old - when he set his record. He put such panic in Serie A defenders that many of them might need counselling to this day. He didn’t unlock doors, he blasted them open with gelignite. There was grace at times, too, but his battered body by the end of his career was testament to his warrior’s heart.
Quagliarella, in the twilight of his career, is a craftier beast. He has always enjoyed fame for his outrageous goals. “Could he possibly have meant that?” we asked ourselves. Over time, we realised, of course he could. But he has refined his art too, adding strength and guile and smarts with every passing season. His sense of where to be and how to score has become almost supernatural. You get the feeling his markers are still trying to figure out how he duped them hours after the final whistle blows.
He could hardly have a tougher place to go than the San Paolo to set the new record and yet it would be a fitting spot. It would be something of a fairytale, as his agent suggested, to do it in his home city. It was almost inevitable, given his travels, that the chance would come against one of his former teams. And, if he seizes the record with the power of his predecessor, nobody could grudge him his place in history.
However, he should be warned against making any outlandish predictions like Batistuta since the more carefree approach of Serie A defences these days seems to mean more contenders in the wings. Krzysztof Piatek went on a tear at the start of this season, while Duvan Zapata is on one right now and Cristiano Ronaldo has been scoring for fun since his arrival in Italy.
No matter the duration of the record, Fabio Quagliarella has already achieved a memorable goal. Just one step further, in his beloved Naples, and he can bask in solitary glory - for a little while, at least.