Fabien Barthez

Fabien Alain Barthez (born 28 June 1971 in Lavelanet) is a former French footballer goalkeeper who won honours with Manchester United and the French national team, with whom he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000 and reached the final of the 2006 World Cup. He shares the record for the most World Cup finals clean sheets with Peter Shilton, with 10. In club football he won the Champions League as well as several Ligue 1 and Premier League titles.

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Club career


Born in Lavelanet, France, Barthez made his first division debut for Toulouse on 21 September 1991, against Nancy. He joined Marseille in 1992, and won both the French championship and the Champions League at the end of his first season in Marseille. The 1993 victory made him the youngest goalkeeper to win a Champions League title until Iker Casillas did so in 2000.

However, Marseille would be stripped of their domestic title, though not of the Champions League crown, due to their involvement in a domestic match fixing scandal, and a year later (1994) would suffer a forced relegation to the second division due to a related financial bankruptcy. He stayed with the club in Division 2 for the 1994–95 season despite many offers from elite French clubs.[1]

AS Monaco

In 1995, Barthez joined AS Monaco and won Ligue 1 titles in 1997 and 2000.

Manchester United

As a result of Barthez's success in the World Cup and Euro, he caught the attention of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who was searching for a star goalkeeper to replace the recently departed Peter Schmeichel, as Ferguson did not think that the previous season's keeper, Mark Bosnich was a long-term replacement. Barthez joined United for £7.8 million in 2000. He was later reunited with national team-mate Laurent Blanc who joined Manchester United in 2001. The Barthez-Blanc head-kissing ritual was performed at the start of Champions League matches.

Well-known for being eccentric,[2] Barthez started out well for Manchester United. His first season was a triumph as he answered all the questions about how he would handle rainy Manchester compared to sunny Monaco. Barthez performed brilliantly throughout the season and became a crowd favourite. The fans loved his eccentric behaviour, his taunting dribbles and step-overs past opposing strikers, and most importantly, his remarkable reaction saves. Very often it was critical saves that kept United from defeat or dropping valuable points, helping United to the 2000–01 Premier League title, their third in a row. A memorable incident happened when Manchester United faced Leeds United in March 2001. Barthez deliberately kicked out with his foot at Ian Harte, who fell to the floor, on the edge of six yard box, and the referee awarded a penalty to Leeds. Harte stepped up but Barthez made an excellent low one-handed save to his right. The only blemish in his first season was his failed attempt at "psyching out" West Ham United's Paolo Di Canio in the FA Cup 4th Round. Di Canio beat the offside trap, while Barthez stood still with his hand up expecting the referee to blow his whistle, or Di Canio to stop. Di Canio continued and scored the only goal of the game.

The 2001–02 season was split into two parts for him. The first half was a nightmare. The Frenchman seemed to be taking some unnecessary risks outside his penalty area, and his antics began to have consequences that allowed unneeded goals for opposing teams. He was at fault for two goals in a home defeat by Deportivo La Coruña in October 2001,[3] Another couple of errors against Arsenal the following month put much pressure on Barthez. There was much speculation as to what was the source of Barthez's decline, and critics urged him to be dropped. However, Sir Alex Ferguson had faith in his goalkeeper and stuck by him. Consequently in the second half of the season, Barthez repaired his reputation with consistent, solid performances and the spectacular saves that he was famous for.

He was also noted for playing mind games before opposition players took a penalty. The first time this occurred was in November 2001 when Leicester City came to Old Trafford. As Muzzy Izzet prepared to take a penalty, Barthez stood aside from the goal, with his hands behind him on the post. Izzet, tired of waiting, slotted the ball in the bottom corner, but the referee made him retake the penalty, this time with Barthez in goal. Izzet went the same way, but Barthez denied him with a fine save to his right. An almost identical incident happened less than a year later in October 2002, when Barthez was unhappy about the awarding of a penalty to Fulham, and so stood at the post and refused to be in goal for the penalty. This time he was booked for his antics, and so he then he took his place between the posts and made it work again by saving Steed Malbranque's spot kick.

The 2002–2003 season ended with another Premier League crown for United. The season was a mixed bag for Barthez. One highlight was a fabulous save to deny Dietmar Hamann's 30-yard rocket at Anfield as United held on to win 2–1. In other games, he let goals go past him that shouldn't have. Barthez was also widely criticized in United's exit to Real Madrid in the Champions League, especially for Ronaldo's opener which beat him at the near post.[4] It would prove to be his last ever game with United as Sir Alex Ferguson's patience had finally run out. Barthez was dropped for the final three games of the season, with Roy Carroll taking his place.

Return to Marseille

In October 2003, after American newcomer Tim Howard won the starting goalkeeper's job from Barthez, United agreed to release Barthez from his contract at Old Trafford after the 2003–04 season, and also agreed to loan Barthez out to Marseille for the remainder of that season. However, FIFA blocked the loan deal on the grounds that it was not agreed upon within the international transfer window. The two clubs agreed on a loan deal after the transfer window reopened on 1 January 2004, and Barthez joined Marseille soon afterwards. On 27 April, Marseille and Barthez agreed to a two-and-a-half-year contract which would keep him at the club until spring 2006.

Barthez was involved in a controversy during a friendly match between OM and Morocco's Wydad Casablanca on 12 February 2005.[5] With 10 minutes left, an OM player was sent off, and a brawl erupted between players on the pitch. Barthez was reported for spitting on the Moroccan referee. On 21 April, Barthez was summoned to a hearing before the disciplinary committee of the French Football Federation; the following day, he received a six-month suspension, with the last three months being suspended. In an unusual move, the federal council of the FFF appealed the suspension, arguing that the punishment should have been for a minimum of six full months. Eventually, his suspension was extended to six full months due to political pressures.


On 8 August 2006, Barthez announced he was still hoping to play professional football for another two years, insisting he was also looking to continue his career in the French international setup. His ideal scenario would be a return to first club Toulouse, where he could be close enough to allow him to take care of his sick mother. But he said if he did not have a club by 31 August he would not carry on with football. On 5 October 2006 it was confirmed that he had retired from football, having failed to agree a return to Toulouse. Barthez commented: "The only club I wanted to go to was not so happy to have me. It happens and you have to live with it."[6]


On 17 December 2006, Barthez announced his return to football by signing a contract with French Ligue 1 side FC Nantes Atlantique,[7] who were lacking an experienced goalkeeper following Mickaël Landreau's move to Paris Saint-Germain the previous summer. Serb goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković, originally recruited to replace Landreau, failed to impress and left Nantes at the winter break following a rift within the squad.

On 29 April, Nantes chairman Rudi Roussillon announced that following an altercation with a Nantes fan, Barthez had left the city with his family. The next day, Barthez confirmed that he had quit the team,[8] and the club terminated his contract. Barthez denied that he was planning to retire, and in an article for French daily L'Équipe, he said that he was looking for another contract for at least two years. Since then Barthez has been linked with numerous clubs but nothing has ever materialised and he has had to face never playing professional football again.

On 25 January 2008, after an interview with Setanta Sports, Barthez says he plans to race Porsche GT 3s and to play beach football in the future.[citation needed]

International career

1998 World Cup

On 26 May 1994, he won his first cap for France against Australia. Though Barthez missed Euro 1996 where his country went all the way to the semi-finals, he gained the number one goalkeeping position shortly afterwards and would not relinquish it for a decade.

In the 1998 World Cup which was hosted by his home country, Barthez conceded only two goals in seven games and bagged the Yashin Award as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.[9] Barthez was also well-known during the tournament for letting teammate and good friend Laurent Blanc kiss his shaved head before the start of every match, supposedly for good luck. Barthez was an integral part of his national team's inaugural triumph which also made it the first time in 20 years that a host had won the World Cup; the highlight being a 3–0 clean sheet against defending champions Brazil in the finals. During the game, Barthez made a spectacular save on Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, doing his trademark leap/step-over the attacking striker to grab the ball, which injured Ronaldo in the process. Barthez was afterwards one of the most popular national players in France, second to Zinedine Zidane.

2000 European Championship

Two years later, Barthez was again the starter as his country won Euro 2000. It was the first time in over twenty years that a national team held both the World Cup and Euro titles, a feat last accomplished by West Germany in 1974. After that triumph, France held the top position in the FIFA World Rankings system from 2001–2002.

2002 and 2004 World Cup and Euro

He played on France's World Cup team again in 2002 in which they exited in the first round without winning a game or scoring a goal. He was also the starter in Euro 2004, saving David Beckham's penalty shot in the round robin, but France went out in the quarterfinals to eventual winners Greece.

2006 World Cup

His place as starting goalkeeper in France's 2006 World Cup Squad, in the face of a substantial public campaign in support of Grégory Coupet, was surprising to many, even more so given Coupet's flawless performance in the remainder of the World Cup qualifying campaign after Barthez's suspension. The decision was met with derision in the French press and also led to Coupet's walking out of the national squad before the tournament, though he was to return one day later. The move was viewed by some as a desire to keep the veterans of France's 1998 World Cup victory on the team. L'Equipe reported after the World Cup that Barthez would have walked out of the squad had he not been named the starter.

France had a slow start in the group stage, drawing their first two games and putting their playoff chances at risk. Fortunately, Barthez's team found their form and won their final round robin match 2–0 to advance to the next stage, where they upset heavily favoured Spain 3–1 in the round of 16.

In defeating Brazil, 1–0 on 1 July 2006, Barthez, having made only one save in the game, became the first keeper to blank the Brazilian team in consecutive World Cup finals matches, the first being the 1998 final (3–0). France is now one of only three nations (along with Italy and Argentina) to have shut Brazil out twice in the World Cup finals, and the first to have done it in consecutive matches, both times with Barthez in goal.

Barthez again kept a clean sheet in the semi-final against Portugal (with Zinédine Zidane's penalty shot the winning goal), though he appeared in questionable form. A few minutes from time, he spectacularly spilled a free-kick which Luís Figo recovered, heading over the bar although unchallenged. He did, however, redeem himself in injury time when a French defender fumbled the ball, enabling a Portuguese player to mount a last-moment attack. Barthez scrambled out of the net and blocked the first shot.

During the final against Italy he briefly captained his team for the remainder of the second period of extra time after Zidane was sent off. During the penalty shootout, neither he nor his Italian counterpart Gianluigi Buffon made a save, and France striker David Trezeguet's missed shot ultimately proved decisive.



  • French Cadet Championship: 1987


  • UEFA Champions League: 1993


  • Ligue 1: 1997, 2000
  • French Champions Trophy: 1997

Manchester United

  • Premier League : 2000–01, 2002–03


  • FIFA World Cup: 1998
  • UEFA European Championship: 2000
  • FIFA Confederations Cup: 2003


  • Yashin Award: 1998
  • Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year: 1998
  • IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 2000
  • European Footballer of the Year Best Goalkeeper: 1998, 2000
  • Most-capped France goalkeeper: 87
  • All-time France World Cup appearances: 17
  • Most World Cup clean sheets: 10 (with Peter Shilton)


  • Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur: 1998

References and Notes

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