The former France international announced his retirement from football this week after a career in which he enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Old Trafford between 2006 and 2014, as well as spells with the likes of Monaco and Juventus.
In a lengthy interview with the Players’ Tribune, the left-back recalled one of the stranger moments of his career when he was given some unusual, yet inspired, medical advice.
“People talk about when we made the Champions League final in 2004, but the craziest part at Monaco came after I had played a game for the French U21 team,” he said.
“An opponent had stamped on my foot and damaged it badly. In hospital I told the Monaco coach, Didier Deschamps: 'It’s too painful. I can’t play. I can’t even walk!'
“But the team needed me, so the doctors tried everything to take away the pain. Nothing worked. Then someone from the club staff said, ‘Why don’t you just go old school?’
“Everyone said: ‘What do you mean?’ He said: ‘Just slide a chicken down his boot.’
“It sounded crazy but, you know me, I’m open minded. So I went to my local butcher.
“The butcher said: ‘What do you want?’ I said: ‘A piece of chicken. But just a tiny one.’
“He said: ‘A tiny one? How come?’ I said: ‘I’m gonna put it in my boot.’
“He just laughed. I went home with the chicken. I ordered new boots: one in size 42.5, the other in size 44.
“I passed the ball. Oh. That felt OK. Painful, but OK. So I ended up playing with chicken in my boot for four months.
“I didn’t train with it — my mother would never have forgiven me for wasting food - but before every game I would visit the butcher. ‘Morning, Patrice. The usual, yeah?’
“The chicken enabled me to play so well that, in January 2006, I was signed by Manchester United.”
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