Rated by pundits as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, in his prime, Barthez was considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and is regarded as one of the best French players ever in his position, being named the fourth greatest French goalkeeper of all time in IFFHS’ Century elections, behind Bernard Lama, Pierre Chayriguès, and Julien Darui. Standing at 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), he was not particularly tall for a goalkeeper, although he was extremely athletic, and was known for his elevation, as well as his decision-making and commitment when coming out to collect the ball, which enabled him to command his area effectively in spite of his short stature; however, at times he was still caught out on high balls due to his lack of height, and he also came under criticism on occasion for his indicisiveness when struggling to deal with crosses. A flamboyant and instinctive keeper, he was also extremely agile, and possessed excellent reflexes, which enabled him to produce spectacular, acrobatic, and decisive reaction saves; he also possessed a good positional sense. In addition to his shot-stopping abilities, Barthez was also known to be a passionate, popular, and highly recognisable footballing figure, who stood out for his outgoing personality, self-assurance, and composure under pressure, as well as his leadership from the back and authoritative presence in goal. Furthermore, Barthez was highly regarded for his exceptional skills with the ball at his feet, as well as his accurate distribution with his left foot, which enabled him to play the ball out from the back or launch an attack with his quick throws or long goal kicks; his confidence in possession often led him to be involved in the build-up of plays, and he often operated outside the penalty area, and would even occasionally attempt to dribble with the ball past opposing strikers with feints such as nutmegs or stepovers. He was also very quick off his line, and often acted as a sweeper-keeper, thus contributing to the evolution of the role. While he received plaudits for his goalkeeping ability in the media, throughout his career Barthez also frequently came under criticism from pundits for his stubbornness, and his aggressive, unorthodox, and eccentric style of play, as well as for taking unnecessary risks, and was also deemed to be inconsistent, unreliable, and prone to errors and lapses in concentration.