In this series, I highlight a much-loved and talented footballer from the past. I’ll tell you a little bit about what I think their key qualities were that made them so special. We’ll go on to look at how best to re-live that legend in Football Manager, by naming a few current players who may be able to ‘mirror the magic’ of the superstar and potentially become your new FM20 hero. Post one was Juan Román Riquelme, two was Ronald Koeman.
Who is it?
In today’s post , we will highlight one of the most impressive and flamboyant goalkeepers of all time, French World Cup winner, Fabien Barthez.
Coming through the Toulouse youth system in the late 80s before an incredible career saw him earn 87 France caps and play most notably for Marseille, Monaco and Manchester United; Fabien Barthez was something of an oddity as a goalkeeper. Standing at just 5 foot 11 inches tall, you’d assume he wasn’t destined to be a shot stopper. Well, that was until you saw him play.
Brave, acrobatic, instinctive. A known smoker with an unorthodox approach to his art. What a legend.
What made him so good?
The ‘Divine Bald One’ was unconventional, especially in his day. Nowadays with keepers like Ederson and Alisson twisting and turning, comfortable with the ball at their feet, it’s not as odd a sight as it was when Barthez first graced English football at the age of 28 in the year 2000.
Widely considered as one of France’s best ever goalkeepers, Barthez had wonderful decision-making, was brave and incredibly composed and confident. As well as his lightning-quick reflexes, Barthez loved to get the ball down and dribble out from the back. Even if that sometimes meant making the odd, disasterous mistake. That’s the beauty of such a paradoxical footballer. Walking that fine line between the sublime and ridiculous. Incredibly athletic and gifted, also eccentric and aggressive to point of potential catastophe, but never, ever, boring.
30 clean sheets in 92 Premier League appearances tells us part of the story. Being central to winning the league in two of his three seasons in Manchester tells the rest.
How would he look in Football Manager?
If we are going to mirror the magic of Fabien Barthez in FM20, we need to determine the key attributes that could best recreate how the iconic Frenchman performed on the pitch.
Key Strengths – Eccentricity, One on Ones, Reflexes, Passing, Bravery, Composure
Key Weaknesses – Jumping Reach, Decisions, Concentration
Player Traits – Tries to Play Way Out of Trouble
Position – GK, ‘Sweeper Keeper – Attack’ role
Who can ‘Mirror the Magic?’
I should be clear. Naturally there may very well be ‘better’ players to play in the ‘Sweeper Keeper’ role in FM20 than those I name below.
This is not about finding who is the best player in the game at playing in the same position and role, it is about analysing Fabien Barthez specifically. For all his gifts and faults, and seeing who matches most accurately for better or worse.
In this case, anyone any taller than 6 foot was discounted, for obvious reasons.
1 – David Raya
It’s hard to believe that Brentford’s new stopper is still only 23, despite making his debut for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship way back in 2014. The Spaniard isn’t the tallest, possesses great reflexes and tends to sprint off his line often to punch away crosses and lofted through balls. His decision-making is a little wobbly but he is very agile. That does sound like a certain follically-challenged iconic Frenchman, doesn’t it? A great keeper who I reckon we will see in the Premier League before long, with Brentford or someone else.
2 – Lucas Hoyos
Perhaps only those who have a penchant for managing outside of Europe would be aware of Hoy, but he fits the Barthez mould perfectly! Again around the 1.8m height mark, eccentric, loves rushing out, is solid in one on ones and reacts well when a snap save is required. If you are more of a UEFA Champions League go-getter, can you bring Lucas to Europe for his peak years and try and win some trophies with him commanding your defence?
3 – Fevzi Elmas
As you should know by now, I love a good curveball bargain option for number 3 when I write these. Lastly (and least) is 36-year old Turkish shot stopper Fevzi Elmas. Depending on how recent your database is, he may be a free agent waiting to transform your club’s fortunes, one way or another. Yes his decision-making and physical attributes may be on the decline (he’s 36, give him a break!). With 18 eccentricity, 15 one on ones and 16 reflexes, as well as still very inclined to charge off his line, I guarantee you life will never not be interesting with Elmas in your side.
Do you have any experience of managing these three players? What are your thoughts on who could better ‘mirror the magic’ of Fabien Barthez?
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