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Keeper Barthez finalizes loan deal

On-loan keeper Barthez finally clear for Marseille debut
On-loan keeper Barthez finally clear for Marseille debut

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MARSEILLE, France -- Manchester United's French international goalkeeper Fabien Barthez has finally completed his loan move to First Division Olympique Marseille.

The 32-year-old will make his long-awaited debut in Saturday's French Cup tie against Strasbourg at the Velodrome.

Barthez had fallen out of favour at English champions United where he was third in the pecking order behind American Tim Howard and Northern Ireland's Roy Carroll.

However, the keeper has been told by national team coach Jacques Santini that he needs to be playing regular top flight football if he is to keep his place when France defend their crown at the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

The 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship winner has been training at Marseille, who are paying part of his wages, since mid-October and is scheduled to stay until June.

World governing body FIFA turned down Marseille's appeal last month to sign Barthez outside the approved transfer period on loan as a replacement for the injured Cedric Carasso.

Marseille president Christophe Bouchet praised Barthez "for his patience, professionalism and the unusual dignity that he has shown since his arrival" at the club in October.

Manchester United signed Barthez for a world record 7.8 million pounds ($13m) from Monaco in May 2000. He played for Marseille until 1995, winning the European Cup with them in 1993.

Barthez has two and a half years left on his United contract but his prospects at Old Trafford look bleak.

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