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Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta is set to join AS Roma next season, ending his nine- year stint with Fiorentina and becoming soccer's third most expensive signing.

Roma will pay its Serie A rival club 70 billion lire ($33 million) for the 31-year-old goal-scorer, 20 million lire below the record fee Inter Milan paid Lazio 12 months ago for Italian striker Christian Vieri.

Batistuta, dubbed ``Batigol'' by the Italian press and fans, was second top-scorer in Italy's top division in the season just finished. Under the proposed agreement, he would become the best- paid player in the world with an annual salary of 12 billion lire over three years.

``For my transfer to Roma there are just a few details to sort out,'' quoted Batistuta as saying. ``But I haven't signed anything yet.''

Batistuta, the longest-serving player at Fiorentina, joined in 1991 after winning the Argentine league with Boca Juniors and the Copa America with Argentina, replacing former World footballer of the year Roberto Baggio as the Florence fans' favorite.

He remained loyal to the club after its relegation to the Second Division, or Serie B, in 1993, and scored 26 goals in his second season back among the elite to finish top-scorer in the Italian championship in 1995.

A hat-trick against Venezia in last week's final game of the season lifted Batistuta to 152 goals for Fiorentina, breaking the previous record of 151 by Swede Kurt Hamrin.

Nine World Cup Goals

Batistuta played for his country in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, scoring four and five goals respectively, and won a second Copa America in 1993. At Fiorentina, he won the 1996 Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup.

Fiorentina has previously resisted attempts by some of Europe's top clubs to sign club captain Batistuta, including Manchester United of England and various Italian sides.

AS Roma, which on Tuesday joined city rival Lazio as one of Italy's two traded soccer clubs, will be banking on Batistuta to keep up his goalscoring feats under coach Fabio Capello.

Roma, known as the ``giallorossi'' because of their blood- red and yellow team colors, watched Lazio win Italy's Serie A league this year and is desperate for success of its own. Roma's last league title was in 1983.
 

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looks like he will join roma,can you believe
what a great attack they will have for next year!!!!
montella and batistuta on top
 
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He is too expensive.....I agree that Roma will have the best attacking team next season but don't forget that they have too many quality strikers and team with too many strikers will have problem managing who will sit in the bench
 
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it's too expensive for this old guy!!!
Montella and batigol won't be associated,that's sure.that's why montella wants to leave.
 

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I think Roma are paying Batigol for the past. That's not to say he's not still a great striker, he definately is. But at 31 years, he doesn't have many great years left. He may be able to play until 34 or 35, but he's not going to play at the same level until that age.

I think if Roma were a bit smarter, they could have got him for cheaper than that. The way I see it, they BETTER win the scudetto now, or this will be the one of the worst moves in history. Roma has money, but not that kind of money. If they spend this much for a 31 year old player, it better pay off.
 
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