When Daniela Sabatino put Fiorentina ahead from the penalty spot last Sunday at Inter, it made her the only player to have reached double figures for goals scored in the last 15 consecutive Serie A campaigns.
The Early Years
Now 35, Sabatino was just 15-years-old when she made her Serie A debut. Her first goal in the top flight dates back to over 20 years ago. In the 2000/01 season, she joined Autolelli Picenum. Unfortunately, the club would no longer compete in Serie A after that season due to financial difficulties.
In 2003, Daniela arrived at Serie B club Monti del Matese Bojano. In her two seasons there, she helped them win a double promotion to Serie A.
Sabatino was top scorer in their Serie B season, with 28 goals in 22 games. Her 16 goals the following season, in Serie A2, went a long way to securing the club’s place in Serie A.
For Daniela however, this was not to be her breakthrough in Serie A, preferring instead to take up an offer from Swiss club Rapid Lugano, where she also reached double figures in her only season there.
Coppa GloryEmbed from Getty Images
Returning to Italy for the 2006/07 season she was signed by Reggiana, a club that had been very successful in the early nineties but the season before Daniela arrived they were closer to relegation.
Now 21, Daniela showed her eye for the goal straight away, scoring 10 that first season as the club finished in the top half of the table. In her four seasons with the club, her goals helped keep Reggiana at that high level and in her final season she would win her first major trophy.
Reggiana reached the final of the Coppa Italia, taking on Torres, that season’s Serie A champions. They were one of the most successful teams in Italian football at the time. The Torres team also included another legendary goal-scorer of Serie A, Patrizia Panico.
Cup final day arrived and it was Sabatino who struck early to put Reggiana ahead after just five minutes. Torres however, were a formidable opponent and managed to get back on level terms. The game ended up going to a penalty shoot-out, Daniela putting away her spot-kick as Reggiana went on to lift the trophy.
The Brescia Boom
When the 2010/11 season came around, Daniela had moved on to Brescia, a club that had just ended their first ever Serie A campaign in 9th position out of 12 teams.
What the squad needed, if they were going to not only survive, but also compete at the highest level, was a proven and consistent goalscorer. That previous season their highest goalscorer had only reached four goals. Signing Sabatino guaranteed that this would improve.Embed from Getty Images
In her first season with the club, Daniela would score 25 goals in 26 league games (no penalties). This made her Serie A’s top scorer that year along with Panico. Brescia ended the season in third place, but things were about to get even better for the club.
2011/12 brought Sabatino another Coppa Italia and Brescia’s first ever in the competition. She scored both Brescia’s goals in the semi-final win over Tavagnacco and in the final she would grab the deciding goal.
When that game with Napoli finished level after ninety minutes, this time there would be no need for a penalty shoot-out as Sabatino scored the only goal in extra-time.
2013/14 and both Daniela Sabatino and Brescia won their first ever Serie A title. They had five points to spare over the mighty Torres, and Sabatino ended up with her highest ever season goals total, scoring 35 in 30 games. Brescia would go on to compete in the Champions League for the next four seasons.
The year after that first Scudetto win and it was Coppa Italia glory again for Sabatino and Brescia. Daniela scored the opening goal in a 4-0 win over Tavagnacco.
It was the 2015/16 season which saw her win the Coppa Italia and Serie A double with the club. Even though Cristiana Girelli was the club’s highest scorer, Sabatino still finished with 17 league goals from 22 games.
Dreams Can Come True
In 2018/19 when AC Milan took over Brescia, Sabatino stayed with the new owners and was the Serie A’s second highest scorer. Her 17 goal haul was bettered only by her team-mate Valentina Giacinti.Embed from Getty Images
Wearing the colours of Milan was a dream come true for Daniela. This was the team she had supported as a young girl in love with football. That girl never believed that she would one day pull on that Milan jersey.
Time to, say goodbye
Unfortunately that dream lasted for just one season with Sabatino understandably disappointed when the club decided not to renew her contract.
It was something of a return to the past for her next move, joining a Sassuolo club who had taken over Reggiana, the place where she started her Serie A goal-scoring run.
Despite last season finishing prematurely due to Covid-19, Sabatino still put away 12 goals in her 16 games, the clubs top-scorer.
Another goal that the striker has achieved is pulling on the Italian jersey, and appearing at a World Cup tournament. She has notched up 29 international goals in her 65 appearances.
Which brings us to the current campaign, with Daniela Sabatino now at Fiorentina and still banging in the goals. That penalty last Sunday was her 10th goal in this season’s first 12 league games.
Sabatino has also been putting them away in the other competitions. In the Coppa Italia she is this season’s top scorer so far, with four goals from her two games.
Pride of Prague
This season’s Champions League showed the grit and determination of the player. Having already scored in the first leg, she then headed in a last-minute goal away to Slavia Prague which put Fiorentina through to the next round.
The Dream Is Over, Dream Another Dream
When she was released by AC Milan, it was a heartbroken Daniela who issued a statement to say how sorry she was that her dream couldn’t continue as she would have liked.
She also described how every time she pulled on that jersey she felt an indescribable emotion, honour and privilege. This made her try to always give everything she had; commitment, sacrifice, professionalism, respect and love.
That statement, I believe, is valid for every club where Daniela Sabatino has played. At 35 years of age, she shows no sign of stopping yet, and the goals just keep on coming. We’ll probably see her pointing to the heavens as the ball hits the net for some time to come.
After that who knows, maybe a singing career.