Martini, who spent much of his playing days with Auxerre, suffered a heart attack as he returned to his car after a training session at Montpellier.

His career started as a 19-year-old with Auxerre, not far from where he was born and grew up.  Apart from two seasons on loan at Nancy, he remained at Auxerre for 14 seasons before finishing his career at Montpellier.

"He was a true legend," Auxerre said of the keeper they rated with the country's best.

He made 31 appearances for France including Euro '92 and a cameo on the bench at Euro '96.

While major international honours alluded him he was a member of the France U-20 team that took the 1988 world title with Laurent Blanc and Eric Cantona.

"How sad, what a great man," said former player and manager Luis Fernandez who now works in sports radio. "Football has lost someone with integrity, honesty and passion."

While his only club trophy was the 1994 French Cup with Auxerre he set a record for the longest run without conceding a goal: 892 minutes in the 1986-7 season.

After hanging up his boots he was France goalkeeping coach, helping Les Bleus to the Euro 2000 title and to the final of the 2006 World Cup.

He played chess and loved classical literature and  music.

"Mozart, Wagner, Bach but, above all, Handel," he once said.

His last role was coaching at Montpellier.

"We weep for one of our own," the club said.

If he had succeeded in passing his high school diploma he could have become a sports instructor and may have slipped through the grasp of Guy Roux, Auxerre's iconic manager.

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