Fabien Barthez, the mercurial goalkeeper who helped France win the 1998 World Cup, announced his immediate playing retirement on this day 14 years ago, only to launch a comeback months afterwards.
Barthez had won the Champions League with Marseille and two Ligue 1 titles at Monaco before heading across the Channel to sign for Manchester United, where he collected two Premier League winner’s medals.
After three seasons back at Marseille, one on loan from United, Barthez was seeking a return to Toulouse, the club where he started his career, but the move failed to materialise and was the final straw for the then 35-year-old.
“I am quitting the French team, I am quitting club football,” he said. “I am going to continue enjoying myself without football.
“The only club I wanted to go to was not so happy to have me. It happens and you have to live with it. I needed an adventure and I have only done things that I want to.”
Barthez made 87 appearances for France between 1994 and 2006 and was regarded as one of the finest custodians of his era, even though his career was catalogued by some high-profile blunders.
His time away from the game lasted just three months as in December 2006 he signed for Nantes, who were struggling at the time in Ligue 1 and decided to bring in the veteran to add some experience to their ranks.
He made 16 appearances in the 2006-07 season, but his time at the club ended in acrimony in April 2007 after he was attacked by a group of Les Canaris fans hours after a 2-0 defeat to Rennes left Nantes eight points from safety.
“I will not play for Nantes again,” he told radio station France Info. “What happened went beyond the scope of sport. It has nothing to do with football. I no longer feel safe there and it’s better for me to leave.”
Barthez did not officially retire again and despite being linked with a number of clubs following his departure from Nantes, nothing transpired. He has since had stints in coaching and even branched out into motorsport.
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