Goalkeeper Barthez calls time on colourful career

6th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - Veteran France international goalkeeper Fabien Barthez announced his retirement on Thursday, the 35-year-old, who is out of contract at Marseille, breaking the news on French television.

PARIS, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - Veteran France international goalkeeper Fabien Barthez announced his retirement on Thursday, the 35-year-old, who is out of contract at Marseille, breaking the news on French television.

A major question mark had hovered over the 1998 World Cup winner following this year's World Cup where he was controversially chosen to keep goal for France over Gregory Coupet.

His last appearance on the pitch was in Berlin's Olympic stadium on July 9 where France lost the World Cup final to Italy on penalties.

The former Manchester United keeper, capped 87 times for Les Bleus, intimated in August that he would be happy to carry on playing for a further two years if the right offer came along.

But on Thursday he told TF1: "I'm finished with football and the French team.

"Now I'm going to continue enjoying myself, as I've done since the age of 15, but without football. I'm starting a new life."

Barthez' coulourful career began at Toulouse before spells with Marseille, Monaco, United (with whom he won the 2000 and 2001 Premiership titles before falling out of favour) and then a second stint at Marseille.

Born in Lavelanet, in the south-west of the country, Barthez' career peaked at the Stade de France eight years ago when France were crowned champions of the world by defeating Brazil 3-0.

The kisses bestowed on his shaven-head by teammate Laurent Blanc were one of the enduring images of the '98 competition.

He was also part of the France side which went on to capture the European championships two years later.

But Barthez' career had its fair share of low points too, notably the six-month ban he received for spitting at a referee in a friendly between Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca and Marseille in February 2005.

"It's true life isn't always rosy," he reflected. "It's like any sporting career, there are injuries, minor stories, but you have to turn it all into positives."

Barthez, known in his native France as the 'Divin Chauve' (the heavenly bald-headed one), bows out holding the record number of French caps for a goalkeeper and at 17 the record number of appearances in World Cup finals.

His last act in a French shirt was to take over the captaincy after Zinédine Zidane's injury time red card against Italy.

Off the pitch the quirky Barthez, who counts supermodel Linda Evangelista as a former girlfriend, was one of the few footballers to enjoy smoking, a habit that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was fully aware of when he signed him back in 2000.

The Old Trafford boss told French sports daily L'Equipe: "I know Fabien smokes. I was even aware of that before he joined us. He must think I don't know about it, but he is mistaken.

"In England, it's a rare thing to see a player smoking but, all in all, I prefer that to an alcoholic."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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