Extrovert and controversial

After he had announced his retirement, Fabien Barthez was linked with English champions Chelsea, who had suffered a 'keeper injury crisis. The club eventually ruled it out but Barthez's career may not yet be over, writes Andy Hampson.

Fabien Barthez, the extrovert and controversial former France goalkeeper, was part of the World Cup winning team in 1998 and enjoyed spells with Marseille and Manchester United. He again featured at the World Cup this year but now appears to have retired after being unable to find a club this season. He has, however, been linked with first club Toulouse and, most recently, Chelsea.

Barthez, who was born in Lavelanet, southern France, first caught the eye after breaking into the Toulouse first team in 1991. He made a strong impression immediately and at the end of his first season in senior football was bought by French giants Marseille. His fledgling career then appeared to reach a stunning early high as Marseille won the Champions League and the French title in his first season, 1993. He then had another fine year as Marseille finished second in 1993-94 but the club were later stripped of their domestic and European titles and relegated due to their involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

Despite the demotion, Barthez stayed with the club for another year but then moved on to Monaco in 1995. It was there he enjoyed a golden period of success. Monaco won the French title in 1997 and 2000 but that was relatively small achievement compared to the international glories of winning the World Cup and then Euro 2000.

Barthez was rated as one of the best 'keepers in the world when Manchester United brought him to Old Trafford for GBP7.8 million in the summer of 2000. The club hoped, and possibly expected, him to become the long-term successor to the great Peter Schmeichel, who had left the previous year.

It did not quite turn out that way, however. He was initially excellent as a United player but consistency proved his problem. There were some outstanding performances but he became increasingly erratic, a problem that was exacerbated by his natural flamboyance. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson eventually lost patience with him and brought in American Tim Howard to replace him.

He spent the second half of the 2003-04 season on loan back at Marseille and he rejoined them permanently at the end of that season.

Barthez's career appeared to be heading towards an ignominious conclusion when he was suspended for six months for spitting at a referee in February 2005 but he bounced back to reclaim the France number one jersey for the 2006 World Cup. He almost enjoyed a glorious swansong as France reached the final but they lost to Italy on penalties.

His contract with Marseille having expired, Barthez was hoping to rejoin Toulouse after the World Cup. Terms could not be agreed, however, and he announced his retirement from club and international football in October.

Later he was linked with English champions Chelsea, who had suffered a 'keeper injury crisis. The club eventually ruled it out but Barthez's career may not yet be over.

Barthez incurred his controversial Marseille ban after trouble erupted late in a friendly against Raja Casablanca of Morocco. The 'keeper got involved in a brawl and was reported after spitting at the official. The initial ban was for six months with three months suspended but, in a political move, the French Football Federation deemed he should serve all six.

Barthez is married to Aurelie, with whom he has a son named Lenny. Barthez met Aurelie, of Lyon, in St. Tropez in 2002.

Barthez was previously involved with Canadian model Linda Evangelista. They met around the time of the 1998 World Cup and lived together in France for a year before moving to Manchester in 2000. Evangelista suffered a miscarriage during their time together but the relationship ended in 2002.

Barthez is known as a Porsche fan with his favourite car being the 996 bi-turbo. The sportscar was an update of the 911 Carrera and was first introduced in 1998. It was replaced in 2004 by the 997, so Barthez may well have acquired a newer model by now. The two-door coupe has a top speed of 198mph and can do 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds.

FACTFILE Name: Fabien Barthez Position: Goalkeeper Club: Unattached DOB: 28/06/71 France Caps: 87 France Goals: 0 France debut: v Australia, May 1994 Moment to remember

Barthez achieved lasting fame for his role in France's World Cup success on home soil in 1998. He conceded just two goals throughout the tournament and was named as its best goalkeeper. Some of the most enduring images of France's glorious run came from Barthez allowing team-mate Laurent Blanc to kiss his bald head prior to every game for luck. He was again first-choice 'keeper when France won Euro 2000, and also for subsequent major tournaments in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Moment to forget

Barthez's reputation suffered a series of knocks when he made a number of mistakes at United. One of his most infamous games was at Arsenal in November 2001 when he made two catastrophic blunders in the final 10 minutes to gift Thierry Henry two goals and the Gunners a 3-1 win. That came just a month after he had handed Deportivo La Coruna a winner in a Champions League match when he slid outside his area and missed the ball. His United career was all but ended by a dismal performance in a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid when he conceded four goals.

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