Mourad Boudjellal, the maverick billionaire owner of Toulon rugby club, made his fortune in the comic business.
He likens rugby to comics, figuring they both provide people with fun and enjoyment.
Yet anyone who follows the world of fictional super heroes knows that for every Superman there is a Lex Luthor; good guy versus bad.
Boudjellal has taken this even further and seemingly stepped from the pages of a comic book himself to become one of the real-life arch villains of international rugby.
Since buying the club in 2007, he has blended money with greed and passion in establishing Toulon as rugby’s version of Hollywood with superstars and silverware galore. Big names like Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana earned their fortunes in the Mediterranean port city.
So has Julian Savea, although you wouldn’t bet on it being the case for much longer after Boudjellal tore into the famous All Black this week.
“I’m going to ask for a DNA test. It is not Savea that we recruited… he must have been changed on the plane. If I were him, I would apologise and I would go home.”
It was a withering put-down entirely in keeping with the owner’s eccentricities and a stark reminder that the grass isn’t always greener in the south of France.
What’s more, when privatising rugby is the talk in the upper reaches of SA rugby, as it is now, you should be careful of what you wish for.
Owning a club can be a vanity project that appeals to the indulgences of megalomaniacs like Boudjellal, a man who dresses only in black. You might get their money, but you also get their egos and diva tantrums.
Such owners run their clubs like fiefdoms, which is why they shoot their mouths off like Boudjellal, who pays the bills and obviously believes he is entitled to do and say as he likes.
He’s never been the shy and retiring sort.
Asked once to ponder the possibility of Quade Cooper taking over from Jonny Wilkinson, Mister Combustible sneered, ‘It’s difficult to go from foie gras to * âté.’
Even now, with his team of galácticos seemingly in free fall – they lie 11th in the Top 14 – he’s threatened bus rides for all away trips. “Those who don’t like it won’t come,” he said sniffily.
Inevitably, he’s run into trouble with the authorities, not least in 2012 for his outrageous remark after another defeat to Clermont: “I had my first refereeing sodomy in the (2010) semi-final against Clermont. I’ve just had my second tonight.”
It earned him a dressing-room ban and he wasn’t allowed pitch-side for four months, a mere slap on the wrist given his record for rancour.
If you get the idea that he only opens his mouth to change feet, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Boudjellal also waded into French flyhalf Anthony Belleau this week: “He has caught the virus from the French team… they can’t play anymore.”
And so the Gallic soap opera goes.
With three European championship titles in the past six years, Toulon have enjoyed great success under the business titan. Yet you must wonder for how much longer
Players now know that Boudjellal’s millions come with the prospect of humiliation.
They will be deeply circumspect lest they bump heads with the arch nemesis of rugby’s super heroes.
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