Sport always has a way of creating characters that fans love, and Fabien Barthez was undoubtedly a unique character. The Frenchmen enjoyed a stellar career that saw him reach the summit by winning the World Cup in 1998. However, not appeased with achieving one of his goals, when he retired from football in 2007, he embarked on a new career in motorsport. This was a career that he enjoyed for seven years before eventually returning to football and taking a job with the national side.
Barthez was renowned for his outlandish play, and he often worked the same way as football betting sites by gambling in his decision making. However, this was a move that effectively paid off as he saved nearly 100 penalties throughout his career, which was an outstanding achievement and credit to his shot-stopping ability, given the fact that he was small in size for a goalkeeper.
Barthez began his professional career with Toulouse, and he made his debut against Nancy in 1991. He quickly became one of the best goalkeepers in his age category and was signed in 1992 by French giants Marseille. His first season at the club ended in success as he won the Ligue 1 title as well as the Champions League. In doing so, he became the youngest goalkeeper to win the competition before Iker Casillas broke his record in 2000. However, Marseille were later stripped of this title due to their part in the French match-fixing scandal which plunged the club into the second tier as a result. Despite offers from around Europe, Barthez stayed with the club and won them promotion back to the top flight.
In 1995 he joined AS Monaco and won two Ligue 1 titles with the club in 1997 and 2000. He was a crucial member of the talented side and played a massive role in knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League in 1998. He would later sign for the Red Devils in 2000 and help the club to win a third successive Premier League title.
Fans at Old Trafford fell in love with the goalkeeper. There were numerous examples of his eccentric behaviour, including the stepovers past opposing players. This quickly became something that Sir Alex Ferguson attempted to remove from his game after a host of errors in the 2001-02 season led to United losing games. One of his most memorable antics was in an FA Cup fixture against West Ham. Paolo Di Canio was put through on goal and Barthez raised his hand in an attempt to psych out the Italian and make him believe he was offside. The Italian didn’t stop however and slotted the ball past the Frenchman.
Barthez went onto win the 2002-03 season with United, in which he made a host of crucial saves to ensure the crown came to Old Trafford. In particular, there was a save in a match against Liverpool that saw the Frenchman dive to the top right-hand corner of the goal and produce a save many thought to have been impossible. He left United in 2004 and returned to Marseille before ending his career with a stint at Nantes.
Upon retiring from football, he embarked on a career in motorsport in 2008. He competed in events such as the Porsche Carrera Cup, the THP Spider Cup, and the Bioracing Series. He got his first podium finish at the Dijon-Prenois leg of the FFSA GT Championship in 2010. He was crowned the French GT Champion in 2013 alongside Morgan Moullin-Traffort, and he took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014. This was to be the final race of his motorsport career, and he ended in a respectably 29th place overall and ninth in the LMGTE Am class.
One thing is for sure, there may never be another sportsman quite like Fabien Barthez. He enjoyed an excellent football career before going onto excel in the world of motorsport, and there can’t be any ex-professional players that can claim that.