Goosen leaving 'Hotel California'
OPINION: Jan de Koning looks beyond the media hype surrounding the kafkaesque Racing 92 versus Johan Goosen saga and asks some pointed questions about the way some French club owners operate.
Let me, from the outset, make it clear that I don't believe for one minute Johan Goosen is entirely blameless with his unexpected decision to part ways with the French giants.
However, for weeks now I have been probing, trying to undrape the Alice-in-Wonderland-like statements about the 24-year-old Springbok - especially those unchallenged French accounts of the events that brought us to where we are today.
Nobody has yet challenged the French versions of, or exposed the truth behind, the nightmarishly complex, bizarre and illogical developments.
I, for one, believe that accepting, without a murmur, the versions put forward by Racing President Jacky Lorenzetti is giving Goosen a raw deal.
Is the Springbok perhaps not just standing up to the French bullies?
Several French club owners have, repeatedly, shown a disregard for the well-being of players. They often treat their staff with disdain and contempt.
It has resulted in many disputes and acrimonious 'divorces'.
On occasion, a player or coach will stand his ground.
The first South African to do this, successfully, was Springbok legend Bakkies Botha - in his face-off with cantankerous Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal in 2012.
Despite the strategic silence from the Goosen camp - given the statements and likelihood of court action - there are certain contradictions in Lorenzetti-driven versions that make it obvious the Racing boss will stop at nothing to discredit a very talented player and paint him as the bad guy in the embroilment.
To paraphrase a famous line from the classic Eagles song, Hotel California: 'Johan Goosen can check out any time he likes, but he can never leave Racing.'
The Tiffany twisted Lorenzetti has certainly been economical with the truth at times.
Claims of phoney contracts and accusations of fraudulent deals can't go unchallenged.
In his most recent statement - on Tuesday, when he confirmed he was still considering legal action against the player - the Racing boss said that Goosen has not appeared at the club for the 'last two days' and appears to have vacated his residence at Le Plessis-Robinson.
Yet, in the same statement he admits that he (or his club) is in possession of an "open-ended employment contract" Goosen signed with a South African company in December.
It is a serious claim to make - as he did in the statement - that the contract with a stud farm in SA was signed by one of Goosen's friends and business associates. He also labelled it a 'phoney document'.
Another problem with the French official's statements is that he repeatedly claims Goosen is a 'Commercial Director' of the company.
However, pictures obtained by rugby365 show a happy Goosen in very ordinary working gear on the Newline Stud farm - certainly not the suit-and-tie attire of a 'Director'.
It must also be remembered that the very same Lorenzetti issued a statement in December (via social media) saying that Goosen had 'retired' from the game and is no longer available for the club.
Why the duplicity? Why is it that he now states the player's residence, company car, locker, and place in the locker-room all remain at his disposal?
There are other questions, given the Racing boss' conflicting statements, that need answering.
Why has Lorenzetti been the only person claiming Goosen has 'retired'? If the player is done with the game, surely he would make that fact public. Perhaps he has just resigned from his Racing job, just like any normal person resigns from a position after a fallout with his boss.
It is well known that he sold off his furniture to fellow players in France, greeted his French-based teammates last week already and was in fact seen in South Africa this past week - before he took up his new position.
The question must be asked: What has the club done that caused such a talented player to turn his back on a team that saw him win the Top 14 Player of the Year award for 2016 and regain his place in the Springbok team?
Also, what caused him to take a decision that has made him the prime target of the powerful French billionaire?
What went on behind the scenes that resulted in such a dramatic breakdown in trust between the two parties?
It simply doesn't add up!
What are the roles of the player's advisors/agents (both previous and current) in all this? Who are really the bad guys?
Is it just a coincidence that Goosen recently changed agents?
Is Lorenzetti not just perhaps a bully? What influence does he have over the French media, that they accept his version of events and act as the 'paint brush' with which he is tarnishing the player's reputation?
Is his bully tactics also the reason why French agents are so scared of the Racing man?
Why is Lorenzetti so quiet about the fact that he was willing to sell Goosen off to Toulon for €1-million?
When the deal went sour the Toulon boss, Boudjellal, fired vitriolic barbs at the Goosen camp, calling people 'bastards' should they consider using him as a player in future.
Was that because he, like his Racing counterpart, did not get his own way?
There is one thing Lorenzetti is correct about. As he said in his statement: "Full light must be shed" on the roles and responsibility of the various people that resulted in Goosen taking this aberrant strategy - the behaviour of both parties, not just the player.
There is no doubt in my mind that when Goosen speaks out - be that in court or in public - he will shed much light on what has been a very one-sided battle so far.
There is also little doubt that the relationship between the player and Racing has broken down irrevocably.
Is there a hidden agenda behind the Frenchman's ongoing public outbursts? Some of his tactics have the undertones of a child throwing his toys after losing the game.
This saga is like a ripe boil ready to burst open and I feel that once the truth comes out, Lorenzetti will not come out smelling of roses.
I want to finish off with a few more lines from that famous Eagles song:
This could be heaven or this could be hell
And still those voices are calling from far away
By Jan de Koning