Long-serving Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has been in reflective mood since announcing he will be stepping away from the club.

ADVERTISEMENT

He is not due to relinquish its presidency until 2023 but in order to be fair to new owner Bernard Lemaitre and not cast a shadow over him, he expects to bid farewell to the club next summer. 

Toulon were a struggling Pro D2 outfit when Boudjellal initially came on board, but his stellar reign in charge resulted in Champions Cup and Top 14 glory.

Now, having announced he will leave, he has given Midi Olympique an insight into how he is feeling with his stint coming to an end at a club he ensured was graced by multiple world stars. 

Asked to select his favourite signing, he delves back to the era when the club were out of the limelight in the second tier of French rugby. 

(Continue reading below…)

Video Spacer
ADVERTISEMENT

“Everyone will say Jonny Wilkinson but I’m with Tana Umaga,” he told the French bi-weekly newspaper. “At that time, I was a young president who knew nothing about rugby. This does not mean that I understand this game better now, but I have become an old president. 

“I wanted to do something incredible, something unreal. The magic was that Umaga came as a freelance in Pro D2. And the transplant took – he stayed more than three years and remains an icon. 

“I am also proud to have listened to Umaga and followed my instinct. He told me, ‘There is a player at XIIIs who has all the qualities to become a world star at XVs’. I did not know him and I signed him. The guy was Sonny Bill Williams. It was still listening to my intuition that I hired Wilkinson, Juan Smith, Bryan Habana or Frederic Michalak… I loved following this kind of file.”

Mourad celebrates

Mourad Boudjellal has been reflecting on his successful period as the owner of Toulon (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

ADVERTISEMENT

Boudjellal added his most emotional moment was sitting alone in a taxi in Dublin shortly after Toulon had lifted the European Cup with a 2013 win over Clermont. 

“My ambition was to bring the RCT to the Stade de France. We did it in 2012 and I thought we had reached our Grail. Well no! We won the European Cup in 2013, then doubled in 2014… the last minute in 2014, against Castres for the Brennus, was also strong. We were eight points ahead and I enjoyed the show. In fact, I had not come to build but to change the destiny of the club.”

Not that his reign was without errors. His biggest mistake? “Without hesitation, I should have proposed the succession of Bernard Laporte to Pierre Mignoni. I thought he was not ready and well, I was wrong at all levels. I am proud of what he is doing in Lyon.

“I know that Bernard Laporte pushed for the duo Mignoni-Delmas (his assistants) to be promoted but my decision was to cut with the Laporte method, to do completely something else. I made a mistake.”

What next in rugby for Boudjellal? He could well be a presidential candidate for the French League next autumn despite his battles with them taking their toll. 

“There is a certain fatigue that has set in with the battle against the regulations. I became more of a lawyer than a club president. When I took over the RCT, my goal was to make dreams in a city whose DNA is rugby. I wanted to hear Mayol’s cathedral vibrate again.

“If I’m a candidate, I want to be credible. And to be you have to have a coherent programme. If I have one that meets the needs of the professionals, I’ll go.

“I am aware of being a very divisive character. Will people vote for a person or a programme? If I’m a candidate, in my wardrobe there will be a drawer for each club designed to create collective wealth. Today, the League is plagued by the philosophy of Limoges, according to which money kills the sport.”

WATCH: Axed Racing player Leone Nakarawa is allegedly closing in on a return to Glasgow

Video Spacer

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now