Today marks the 20th anniversary of Gabriel Batistuta’s most famous goal on British shores – his 25-yard screamer against Manchester United in the 1999-00 Champions League.
Batigol had remained an elusive figure to the wider footballing public in many ways.
Despite Italian football being very popular throughout the 1990s in the UK, it wasn’t watched by everyone.
For some, the only glimpse they got of Batistuta was at USA ’94 and France ’98 with Argentina.
However, with the Viola qualifying for the Champions League in the 1999-00 season, this was about to change.
Under the tutelage of the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni, Fiorentina were drawn in a group that included Arsenal and Barcelona.
Batistuta didn’t disappoint against the Gunners, rifling a strike past David Seaman from an acute angle at Wembley to give Fiorentina a priceless win that sent the London side out of the competition.
This was the era of the two group stages, and Fiorentina were then paired in the second group phase with Manchester United, Bordeaux and Valencia.
Batigol scored against the-then European champions in a 2-0 win in Florence. A draw against the French side and a win over Valencia put the Viola in a very good position.
However a defeat to Valencia was a setback going into the game against Manchester United at Old Trafford on match day five.
It took only 16 minutes for Batistuta to make his mark.
In the 16th minute, Batistuta received a pass from Angelo Di Livio some 30 yards from goal, sidestepped the colossal Jaap Stam with ease, and smashed the ball right down Mark Bosnich’s throat at a lightning speed, as if Bosnich had somehow offended him.
However Batistuta’s efforts weren’t enough. The English side turned the game around and eventually won 3-1.
A 3-3 draw with Bordeaux meant the end of Batistuta’s European adventure with the Viola, as they finished third in the group, and the striker finally left the club that summer for Roma.
By then, British audiences certainly knew what Batigol was all about - goals.
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