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Famous for his bald head, the son of a famous rugby player, 34-year-old Fabien Barthez is technically an excellent soccer player who could possibly have also made a career in an outfield position. Considered the top goalkeeper in France, he lost his place to Lyon's Gregory Coupet after being banned for eight months (April-October 2005) for spitting at a referee.
A brawl erupted on the pitch after Marseille defender Frederic Dehu was sent off and the match was abandoned with 10 minutes left. Barthez, who had been substituted, got off the bench and confronted the referee. Fortunately for him, after long reflection, coach Raymond Domenech opted for the 77 times capped Barthez, who is also a veteran of the 1988 World Cup winning side.
It was reported in the French media that Domenech and his goalkeeper coach Bruno Martini chose Barthez over the 33-year-old Coupet because of his bigger experience at major events and his standing in the national team.
There is no doubt that Barthez can either be brilliant or sometimes a liability. When France won the World Cup in 1998, he only conceded two goals in seven games, but he has also made blunders, some of which were at club level for Manchester United.
Subsequent to the World Cup 1998, Barthez became a huge celebrity, almost a French equal of David Beckham.
Barthez started his career in professional football at Toulouse FC, joining Olympique Marseille in 1992 and winning the 1993 European Cup. He joined AS Monaco in 1995, winning the French League Championship and again in 2000.
Well known for his cavalier charges out of goal, he went on to join United for £7.8million in May 2000, a British record for a goalkeeper, and won two Premiership titles at Old Trafford before returning to Marseille in August 2002 on loan. He quickly became a first choice during an exciting UEFA Cup run, securing a permanent move to his old club when he became a free agent in the summer of 2004.
'I just concentrate on myself. Since 1992, I've been playing for teams who enter a league season to win the title. I've had to question myself for almost the past 15 years,’ said Barthez.
'I don't think of the World Cup. I know everything goes fast, I know everything can change within 48 hours.' the former Manchester United goalkeeper said.
Barthez is France's unquestioned starter in goal and, along with Zinedine Zidane, and one of the most consistent pieces of the French team. In order for the French team to make a strong impact in this World Cup, they will have to concentrate not only on physical training but also mental training, as it is so important for players not to crack under pressure.
About the Author: Keith MacLean is the mental goaltending coach for athletes the world over. If you want to take your game to the next level, contact him via http://www.goalkeepertips.com