Argentine legend Gabriel Batistuta has been invited to ‘Podemos Hablar’ TV show this week to talk a lot about his career.
And it turns out that a big part of the conversation was about Marcelo Bielsa. That’s because the Leeds United boss has managed the striker both at Newell’s Old Boys and for the national team.
Batistuta recalled his arrival at Newell’s, which was his first big club, and he was soon called up for the first team.
“I arrive and they tell me ‘tomorrow you will train with Marcelo in La Cuarta’. Yes, it was Bielsa! He was crazier than now! He dreamed of Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan,” said Batistuta (via El País).
“He kind of didn’t like me, because I was chubby. I weighed more than now, butt, shaped like nothing. He said ‘We’ll have to work here.’ And yes… He helped me, he showed me the way, he explained things to me.”
The saddest episode of their friendship was during the 2002 World Cup, when Argentines expected Batistuta to have an attacking partnership with Hernan Crespo. But Bielsa never let them play together, and the national team were eliminated in the group stage.
“He had his idea, and he died with that idea.
“The last time I saw Bielsa was there, a very sad moment. We were the national team that had to win the World Cup. He had run into the qualifiers; we were candidates and we had done everything we had to do. There was nothing to do to reproach himself.
“I followed him because I respect him, he taught me everything I later applied in football.”
Batistuta had an unexpected meeting with Marcelo Bielsa recently. And the Fiorentina legend has told a very emotional story about the conversation they had, since he had some good feelings about his former boss.
“Recently, I was in a hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. I went down for breakfast, I had a flight later. I left the elevator and the guy was talking to another manager, a Mexican, who had come to consult him. He was on his back.
“I saw him and said ‘what do I do? Do I greet him or not?’. I had no choice but to go to greet him, because the Mexican saw me from the front, Bielsa turned around. ‘Mister, how are you, it’s been so long?’. He shook my hand, dry like Bielsa. And I’m going to have breakfast.
“I was having breakfast and I say: ‘It can’t be that at 50 I don’t say what I feel’. That I thought, alone. I finished breakfast, and before I go, I go and hug him. It was one of those hugs of the soul, they tell it all, no words are needed. I told him I admired him, I loved him. Half that was tearing me up, because he also told me ‘Bati, I admire you a lot too’, It was very emotional.
“I liked telling him, because if I didn’t, I would have missed that moment.”