United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez surprisingly enjoys a second sporting career

Former France and Manchester United stopper Fabien Barthez has created a remarkable post-football career as a racing driver.

The 50-year-old, who is clearly a fan of the fast track, shows no signs of slowing down as he has already competed in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Barthez played for United between 2000 and 2004, having previously helped France win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships.

His career at United was, to say the least, mixed with his unorthodox brand of shot-stopping fantastic and frustrating fans alike.

Image credit: PA
Image credit: PA

After periods in Marseille and Nanes, the goalkeeper withdrew from football forever in 2007.

But apparently unable to scratch that competitive itch in retirement, Barthez would take up a whole other hobby shortly after.

In 2008, at the age of 36, he participated in his first professional motor race, namely the Porsche Cararra Cup France.

This clearly gave him the racing error when the World Cup hero a year later took part in a wave of sports car races, including the French GT Championship.

The ‘top’ of his motorsport career came in the GT Championship, which he won in 2013 alongside Morgan Mouillin-Traffort.

“I wanted to understand what it felt like to be in a car. I had to wait until the end of my professional career to try it.

“That said, it’s not like football: you can still be good, even when you’re 35, which was my age when I stopped playing.”

In 2018, he appeared in a French television documentary called Brothers of Sport on the L’Equipe channel.

He recalled having a conversation with former Toyota F1 driver Olivier Panis in 1998 about the possibility of a career change. This planted a seed in the head of the goalkeeper, who was about to take part in a home World Cup.

“I talked to Olivier over the summer. I asked him if I was a World Cup-winning footballer,” Barthez recalls.

Another major milestone in his driving career came in 2014, when Barthez drove 24 hours in Le Mans for the first time.

The historic endurance race has been won by the likes of Fernando Alonso and Graham Hill – and is still considered one of the toughest motorsport events in existence.

At the 2017 edition, a fearless Barthez recorded top speeds of 206 mph on the tough, 8.5-mile configuration.

Image credit: PA
Image credit: PA

“I know the pitch very well. The atmosphere, the spirit,” claimed the former Monaco stopper.

“I spent three months learning everything I could. It was a passion that turned into an obsession.

“It was like football, in terms of preparation, the way the pressure went up, you see the ground and the stadium, the pressure goes up, everything came back to me.”

Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from the 2017 competition when his Ligier JS P217 prototype got a broken clutch three hours after the end of the race.

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