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Fabulous fable / One day, one transfer / Episode 31 /

A final season at OM and a 2006 World Cup as a boss ended in the final: this is how the iconic Fabien Barthez should have ended his brilliant career, properly. But when we thought it was definitely put away, the last rampart accepted, in December 2006, to take up a perilous challenge at the bedside of FC Nantes, in the doldrums. And it will be four months of nightmare for everyone.

A tumble from David Ducourtioux in his lane, a loose center from the captain of CS Sedan Ardennes, a ball that bounces in the six meters bound for Fabien Barthez, planted on his line, then the drama. Hit in the right leg at the start of the game, the world champion goalkeeper is next to his pumps, this 1er April 2007 at Beaujoire in a decisive match for the maintenance, and the sequence is not a hoax of circumstance: wanting to send the leather out of its zone, the former Marseillais enters his goal with the sphere and provokes the opening of the Boars score in general amazement, before giving way to Tony Heurtebis ten minutes later, crumbling under shame, and returning home immediately. “He came out, but he was not injured” , will swing Michel Der Zakarian. The legend of French goalkeepers has just hit rock bottom in front of 35,000 people and, fortunately, his adventure in Loire-Atlantique is already coming to an end.

That’s not what Barthez’s last stand in Nantes was supposed to look like, coming out of retirement less than four months earlier to play firefighters on duty in a sinking yellow house, Vladimir Stojković doesn’t having not satisfied as successor to Mickaël Landreau. While we imagined him coming full circle in Toulouse, with whom he cannot find an agreement, the divine bald man is tempted by the yet horrifying project proposed by Rudi Roussillon and Georges Eo: when the 35-year-old goalkeeper engages on the banks of the Loire, the eight-time champion of France is simply red lantern of Ligue 1, with two successes in eighteen outings and only twelve pawns marked. So the recruitment of the tricolor icon is quite a coup, for a club which no longer achieves much at that time. “He wanted to put on the gloves, the club had offered him a great challenge with the desire to maintainrewinds Vincent Briant, one of the four goalkeepers aligned by the FCNA that season and who saw Barthez become his training partner in the middle of December. It is this desire that made him sign. He came a little in this role of savior. He worked a lot, he was coming back from six months without competition, so he had put all the means on his side to get up to speed. Everyone was happy to have a world champion in the team. I was no longer playing, but being replaced by Fabien Barthez makes sense. »

Humiliated by Savidan and Pauleta

As of January 3, a few days after his arrival, the goalkeeper, visibly unhappy with the group atmosphere, threw a chill at La Jonelière by leaving his partners in the middle of training, for alleged back pain, forcing the president Roussillon to publish a statement to stifle the start of the fire. “Here is Club Med” even describes Barthez in private in remarks reported by The Team. The goalkeeper’s debut in yellow and green is however a good omen, with good results in the Coupe de France and a success against Nice with a late goal from Luigi Pieroni from a touch in the Nantes camp quickly played by … Barthez himself. But the latter then chained the poor performance, including a terrible 5-2 at Beaujoire during which he ate, totally helpless, the quadruple of a Steve Savidan at the top of his game. Barthez saves face by winning a point almost all by himself against OM on his return to the Vélodrome (0-0).

“There were the former Da Roch’, Nico Sav’ who were well established in the locker room and appreciated. Fabien’s arrival pissed them off a bit, and it didn’t go well. » Vincent Briant

From the middle of March, the group sinks for good, both on the green rectangle – with the nightmare against Sedan – and in its intimacy. In the locker room, the tea towel burns between FabulousFab and the yellow and green frames, starting with icons Frédéric Da Rocha and Nicolas Savinaud: “There were the former Da Roch’, Nico Sav’ who were well established in the locker room and appreciated. Fabien’s arrival pissed them off a bit, and things didn’t go well between Fabien, Da Roch’ and that whole group.continues Briant, today at the head of his building renovation box and soon to be coach of the women of Quimper Kerfeunteun, in Finistère. It was a little tense, but the coaches had done what was necessary to keep it in the locker room. » Not enough to avoid incidents, like when the goalkeeper deserts his cage, in the middle of a penalty shootout at La Jonelière, when it was Savinaud’s turn to kick. In the process, in the semi-finals of the Coupe de France, OM did not get trapped this time and glued three to their former last rampart, with a Franck Ribéry in a trance.

The Payet incident and the derby ambush

Three weeks later, another humiliation took place at the Parc des Princes against a PSG which was also fighting for its survival: 4-0, including a double from Pedro Miguel Pauleta and a golazo by Jerome Rothen. The following week, the José-Arribas sports center will still tremble. Because beyond his dispute with the elders, Barthez has another enemy in his locker room: the youngster Dimitri Payet, nugget and handyman of the Canaries – despite his barely twenty years old – with his status as top scorer and the team’s best passer, but whose lack of investment Barthez points out. “Payet had the donkey brought up, he doesn’t really know where he lives anymore” , was able to let go of the friend of Abdellah El Achiri. On April 24 during an opposition during which Barthez finds himself a field player, he decides to come and caress the ankles of the Reunionese, triggering the anger of the latter, who will even sulk in the locker room of the reserve (“If I had been injured, it was the same”). Briant described between the two men “reflections that had not been well appreciated. They took the lead on the ground. » The Fab’, for its part, will release a ” it was fun ! » teasing at the end of the session, while Michel Der Zakarian will be forced to play mediators.

The highlight of the show is near: the 28th of this same month of April, it is derby day at Louis-Fonteneau, which welcomes Stade Rennes as part of the 34e Ligue 1 day. A final snub for Barthez (0-2 defeat), like his slip on the break goal scored by an insolent 21-year-old Jimmy Briand. These will be his 26e and 27e goals conceded (in just 19 games), and the last of his term: leaving the stadium at the wheel of his Porsche in the company of his father-in-law, he finds himself – no one knows how – at the mercy of bitter supporters, five or six of which block him, attack him (he would have eaten blows, and would also have given some depending on the version) and shake his vehicle. The episode, described as a “ambush” but of which we will never really know the truth, will be the one too many for the gloved icon, who prepares her backpack the same evening and breaks her contract, which will end on April 30. “I no longer feel safe, I prefer to leave” he confided to France Info before filing a complaint against X, receiving a spicy response from the Loire Brigade: “In addition to being a fool coupled with a pretentious, Fabien Barthez is therefore a coward. He uses a pretext to flee the ship like a rat. » The player will go even further in the columns of The Team : “I received a phone call from Eric Cubilier in the afternoon of the match certifying me that I should not come to the stadium, because there were supporters who wanted to nab me. » Two days later in Bordeaux, with Heurtebis in goal, FC Nantes Atlantique – bottom for more than a month – is officially relegated to the second division after 44 consecutive seasons in the top flight. Barthez is already far away. Nantes recruited a legend, and it was legendary.

By Jeremy Baron
Words by Vincent Briant recorded by JB


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