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When Batistuta came to Rome - Serie A in 2000/01
Serie A

When Batistuta came to Rome - Serie A in 2000/01

The Argentine hitman finally left Fiorentina and got the title his career deserved

10:00am on Sunday 29th March 2020
By
Mark Doyle

Just a year after having to watch Lazio being crowned champions of Serie A, Roma usurped their city rivals as the kings of Italian football. The Giallorossi had finished sixth in 1999-2000 but some fine signings and the tactical acumen of coach Fabio Capello propelled them towards what was only the third Scudetto in the capital club’s history - and their first since 1983.

The former AC Milan boss had taken a break from the game following a disastrous second spell at San Siro but he returned refreshed and reinvigorated, cleverly switching to a 3-4-1-2 formation that brought the very best out of new centre-half Walter Samuel, wing-backs Cafu and Vincent Candela, and captain Francesco Totti.

The decision to pay €36m for Gabriel Batistuta - a record fee for a player over 30 - was initially queried but the Argentine top-scored as Roma held off Juventus in an enthralling title tussle to spark celebrations at the Stadio Olimpico for the second successive season. Indeed, that summer, it seemed that Rome had also become the capital of Italian football.

CHANGES

Lazio may have been the reigning champions but Sergio Cragnotti had his sights set on European domination, so he broke the transfer fee world record by signing Parma hotshot Hernan Crespo for €55m, as well as snapping up Valencia forward Claudio Lopez for an additional €18m.

Juventus also strengthened their attack by acquiring Monaco starlet David Trezeguet, while Inter brought in Hakan Sukur and Robbie Keane to provide cover for their injury-prone strikers, Christian Vieri and Ronaldo.

It was Roma who did the best business, though. Not only did they sign Batistuta and Samuel, they also paid Bayer Leverkusen €18m for Emerson, who proved just as integral to their title-winning team.

SEASON SUMMARY

Napoli made a welcome return to Serie A only to go straight back down, while it quickly became clear that there was insufficient stability at San Paolo to sustain a title challenge.

Inter sacked Marcello Lippi after their very first Serie A outing, with Champions League elimination at the hands of Helsingborgs having been followed up by a 2-1 loss at Reggina. AC Milan, meanwhile, stuck by Alberto Zaccheroni - despite managing just one win in their opening five games - but he was eventually sacked at the end of the season after a sixth-placed finish.

Lazio kicked off their campaign by lifting the Supercoppa Italiana and Crespo scored freely throughout the season but their hopes of retaining their league title were undermined by four defeats - including one in the Rome derby - by matchday 14.

As a result, it was left to Juventus to battle it out with high-flying Roma for the Scudetto. By the middle of March, it appeared as if the Giallorossi were going to run away with it. However, a defeat at Fiorentina unsettled Capello’s side and by the time they arrived in Turin on May 6, Juve had whittled their lead down to just six points.

Serie A Player of the Year, Zinedine Zidane

The Bianconeri looked set to halve the deficit after netting twice in the opening six minutes, with Zinedine Zidane creating a goal from Alessandro Del Piero before then scoring one himself.

However, Hidetoshi Nakata dragged the visitors back into the game with a stunning strike from distance and then, in the dying seconds, another long-range effort from the Japanese midfielder was spilled by Edwin van der Sar, allowing Vincenzo Montella to earn Roma an unlikely point.

It proved crucial, too. Wobbling Roma drew twice more before the season’s end, as Juve closed to within two points, but the Giallorossi defeated Parma on the final day to end their 18-year wait for a third Scudetto.

AWARDS

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

The French attacking midfielder went to another level during the 2000-01 campaign, which prompted Real Madrid to pay a record-breaking €77.5m for his services.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

CARLO ANCELOTTI

The former Italy international endured the agony of finishing as a runner-up with Juventus for the second consecutive season, but Ancelotti was still recognised by his peers for his impressive consistency.

TOP GOALSCORER

HERNAN CRESPO - 26 GOALS

The Argentine attacker did an excellent job of justifying his lofty transfer fee by netting 26 times in just 32 outings to beat Andriy Shevchenko (24 goals) to the Capocannoniere award.

GOAL OF THE SEASON

ROBERTO BAGGIO possessed one of the best first touches the game has ever seen. Nowhere was this more thrillingly illustrated than in Turin on April 1, 2001 when, with four minutes to go, the iconic No.10 controlled a through ball and took it around Juve goalkeeper Van der Sar, all in one movement, before slotting home to earn Brescia a 1-1 draw.

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

Hernan Crespo

Parma to Lazio

€55m

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

Van der Saar’s failure to hold on to Nakata’s 91st-minute strike in Turin was crucial. Had the Dutch goalkeeper parried that shot to safety, Juve would have drawn to within three points of a Roma side that had already started stumbling towards the finish line.

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