We continue in our search for the best saves on The MadScientist’s 1992/93 Database for Football Manager 2022. diving into the story of some of the most interesting teams and players of the era and making the case for a save with them. For our second episode, we travel some 2,000km east, from Seville to Florence, to meet another Argentine maverick…
Guerriero mai domo
On August 18th, 1991, Fiorentina welcomed the player who would come to define their decade, and probably the place they occupy in the collective minds of anyone who grew up during that era. For a generation of tifosi, Gabriel Omar Batistuta can pretty much only be imagined wearing the purple of AC Fiorentina, La Viola. His story, however, starts a long time before…
Born on February 1st, 1969, Batistuta grew up in Avellaneda, in the Argentine province of Santa Fe. As a young boy, he played various sports, with basketball being his favourite until he saw Argentina win the 1978 World Cup. Without much in terms of natural talent for control of the ball, his blessing was the powerful physique that made him an effective forward. When his youth side beat Newell’s Old Boys’ youth team in a provincial championship, he impressed head coach Marcelo Bielsa who signed him.
Batistuta was out of shape, and he struggled under Bielsa’s high-intensity training. “After twenty days of training, I thought that it would be his fault if I failed to become a footballer”, said the Argentine striker once. On top of it, Bielsa imposed a diet on Batistuta, to make him lose ten kilos. “Where my teammates had muscle, I had fat.” Slowly, however, the transformation began; it’s something Batistuta would come to treasure many years later: “Bielsa educated me. He taught me to train even if it was raining, even if it was cold, even if it was a holiday. He taught about the life of the professional footballer”.
His performances with Newell’s earn him a move to River Plate, where he’d clash mid-season with newly appointed head coach Daniel Passarella. A move to superclásico rivals Boca Juniors would prove much more successful. It was his performances with the azul y oro shirt of Boca that earned him a spot in Alfio Basile’s Argentina team for the 1991 Copa América, to be played in Chile. Batistuta would finish as the top goalscorer of the competition. Unbeknownst to him, a very important man was watching him play, Fiorentina vice president Vittorio Cecchi Gori. So impressed was the Italian that he closed the deal in Chile before the tournament final. When Batistuta departed from Santiago he was already a Fiorentina player.
And yet, his first days with La Viola are troublesome. Brazilian manager Sebastião Lazaroni doesn’t rate him and he has to start from the bench. The Brazilian was soon replaced with Luigi Radice, but little changed for Batistuta, until January 6th, 1992. Juventus was visiting the Stadio Artemio Franchi; the same Juve that less than two years before had signed Roberto Baggio from the Tuscan side, a move so controversial amongst La Viola fans that riots broke out on the streets of Florence, where 50 people were injured.
Fiorentina won, with Batistuta scoring the first just seven minutes in. The next day, the Gazzetta invited Viola fans to send a fax with a message for the Argentine to be posted in the newspaper. The office was overwhelmed by a mountain of paper, with five thousand messages received in less than two days. Fiorentina was in love, and Batigol was born.
The team finished in a mediocre 12th position. With their star man already in place, the Cecchi Gori family starts working on the supporting cast; for the 1992/93 season, they invest heavily in the squad. Stefan Effenberg and Brian Laudrup arrived from Bayern Munich for €3,75M and €5M respectively, and Francesco Baiano was signed from Foggia for €5M. The start of the season was promising; after 13 matches, Fiorentina was second in the standings, behind Milan and level on points with Inter and Juventus. However, after a defeat at home against Atalanta, Vittorio Cecchi Gori unexpectedly fires Luigi Radice. It would prove a costly move.
La Viola dropped to last with a record of three wins, nine draws and eight defeats in the 20 matches following the sacking of the manager. On the last matchday, Fiorentina won comfortably 6-2 against Foggia, but Udinese’s draw against Roma saw the relegation of Fiorentina, the first in fifty-four years.
The sharks smelled blood and started sniffing around; major stars like Dunga, Brian Laudrup, Pietro Maiellaro and Stefano Salvatori left the club. Manchester United and Real Madrid came looking for Batistuta, but the Argentine decided not to escape the sinking ship. “There was an image that I wanted to forget: the elderly president Mario Cecchi Gori forced to leave the stadium protected by the police”, said Batistuta years later. “I loved the president. He had invested a lot of money and a lot of passion in Fiorentina. I couldn’t leave with the team in Serie B”.
Promotion arrived on May 8, 1994; Fiorentina beat Ascoli 5-1, with two goals by Batistuta. He had brought the team back to Serie A; his first thought was for Mario Cecchi Gori, who died in November of a heart attack. “He loved Fiorentina and shouldn’t have died with his team in Serie B. Sometimes life is unfair.” The following season, with Fiorentina returning to Serie A, Batistuta solidified his spot among the best strikers in the world. He won his first and only Capocannoniere with 26 league goals.
A few years later, in 1995/96, with Ranieri on the bench and Rui Costa orchestrating the game, Batistuta got La Viola to finish in fourth place. On May 17, 1996, they beat Atalanta 2-0 to win the Italian Cup. He came closest to winning the Scudetto in 1998/99, although Fiorentina’s 56 points came nowhere near to Milan’s tally of 70.
Batistuta would leave a season after that, in 2000/01, to join Fabio Capello and Francesco Totti in AS Roma. He’s been alleged to have cried when the moment to leave Florence came. Serie A glory awaited for him at the Italian capital, but having said that he’d “rather have won one title with a team like Fiorentina than ten titles with a team like Manchester United”, one has to ponder whether that success proved worthwhile. Florence was his home.
A bronze statue of the Argentinian once guarded the Stadio Artemio Franchi. It was removed when he left for Rome, a burst of anger perhaps minimal compared to that which followed Baggio’s departure. However, the words in the inscription remain every bit as truthful: “Guerriero mai domo. Duro nella lotta. Leale nell’animo”. Indomitable Warrior. Fierce in the Fight. Loyal in the Soul.
Fiorentina in the 1992/93 MadScientist Database
The Cecchi Gori family might have invested heavily in the squad, but as they quickly found out, remaining competitive in Serie A during the 90s was no easy task; Italy was the epicentre of world football and would remain so for quite some time.
This was the era of Mathias Sammer and Rubén Sosa at Inter, of Vialli and Baggio at Juve, and of course, the era when AC Milan was the biggest side in the world with the Dutch Trinity of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. So what can we expect as Fiorentina manager?
Economy and Facilities
La Viola is in a great spot economically. Currently secure, with some €73M in the bank and projecting solid returns on investment, we can play a bit fast and loose with the transfer budget without worrying about destabilising the club.
At just above 43,000 spectators, the Stadio Artemio Franchi is comfortably amongst Italy’s top stadiums, although it sits some way behind the shared grounds of San Siro, Stadio Olimpico and the Delle Alpi, all capable of accommodating some 20,000 seats at least. The facilities could do with some improvement, but being the largest club in the province we should still be able to develop top Tuscan talent.
In terms of vision, the board understands that this isn’t a club that should be challenging for silverware and the big stages. In the first season, they ask only of a top-half finish; despite Fiorentina’s real-life relegation during the 1992/93 season, a solid first season should be very much in the cards and it’s not an unrealistic ask.
From there, the goal is to work towards entering the picture of the continental competition and continue developing the club in that direction, always within the bounds of our wages budget.
The man that you came for, even at just 23 years old Batigol is already one of the best strikers in the world. With plenty of potential yet and a Model Citizen personality, he could become even better, which is frankly terrifying.
Of course, the main worry for any Fiorentina manager is losing him. He’s got no release clause on his contract, and no clubs seem to be interested in his services so far. However, his talent is bound to attract interest; luckily, his contract still has five years in it, plenty of time to put La Viola in a position to keep their star man.
The former Bayern Munich man is class personified as a midfielder. An unbelievable passer of the ball, he also adds a good quota of hard work and even a touch of defensive nous. At 18 Anticipation and 18 Vision, he reads the game as well as anyone possibly could and has the technique and passing range to put those football smarts into good use.
With Corners 17 and Technique 16, he should be combining with Batistuta to devastating effect on your set plays, so maybe it’s worth designing a few interesting combos there.
Fresh off unexpectedly winning Euro 92 with Denmark, the younger of the Laudrups is every bit as explosive as his Danish Dynamite brother. Fiendishly quick and with a golden touched right foot, he’s probably best deployed on the right-wing, set on terrorising left-backs across the country.
His combination of lightning-quick pace and deadly crossing should create plenty of chances for Batistuta upfront However, keep in mind he’s an all-out attacker; Player traits like “Runs with ball down right”, “Gets forward whenever possible” and “Cuts inside from both wings” mean he’ll be out of position more often than not, so be sure to have someone covering on that side.
Unlike Sevilla, Fiorentina is not one of the top sides in their league. However, the nature of 90s Italian football makes it so you still have so much quality across the pitch. Still, you can always improve your squad. With just over €29M to spend in the first transfer window, who can we bring early on to help our side and make sure we don’t suffer the same fate La Viola suffered in real life?
It may look like a bit of overkill, considering the Czech plays in the same position as one of your biggest stars, Brian Laudrup. However, the fact of the matter is that you don’t have a natural rotation option for the Dane.
At the manageable cost of €6M, you can pry Poborský from České Budějovice. Not quite as fast or as delightful a technician as Laudrup, he still provides a solid option. At 20, he has a lot of room to grow, and the Fiorentina dressing room has the right personalities to turn from “Fairly Professional” into a craftsman of his trade. For a much more expensive option, you can sign Predrag Mijatović from Partizan for €7M, although his wage demands are… well, let’s just say there’s a reason he ended up at Real Madrid.
Another winger, you are every bit as lacking for rotation options on the left as you are on the right, with the bonus of having a quite less stellar starter in the position. Massimo Orlando is young and talented, but you’ll need options.
Gabriel Cedrés from Peñarol offers an interesting option. He’ll only cost you €5M, but he can play throughout the midfield and has a very complete skill set. In real life, he never got a chance to play in Europe, although he did win a Copa Libertadores with River Plate in 1996. Did the Old Continent miss out on him? Time to put it to the test.
Centreback is arguably La Viola’s most under-talented. Gianluca Luppi, Alberto Malusci and Mario Faccenda are all a tad underwhelming, and whilst a head-full-of-hair Stefano Pioli looks to be one of your most solid performers, he needs a partner. Enter one Stephen Keshi.
The Nigerian won’t be the difference-maker in your defence, and at 30 years old he’s not a long term option, but with a price tag of just €2M from Strasbourg, he’s almost too cheap to pass by. He’s an instant starter for Fiorentina and should buy you a season or two to find your defensive fulcrum. Should you want a more-upside, hindsight-exploity option, Roberto Ayala is to be found at Ferro in Argentina; good luck fighting Manchester United for his signature though.