Sebastien Chabal's star as a Rugby Union player is unlikely to shine for much longer after Racing-Metro effectively sacked one of French sport's most recognisable characters.
Chabal, with his towering physique framed by a mane of black hair and bushy beard, saw his worth shoot up after the 2007 World Cup, capitalising on his iconic looks and sometime-barnstorming style of play.
The 34-year-old, capped 62 times by France, signed for Racing in 2009 on a contract worth €750,000 a season.
While his value as a useful publicity figure continued to match his on-field performances during his first season, making the starring Top 14 XV in L'Equipe newspaper, his playing form has drastically fallen away.
He failed to make the France squad for the 2011 World Cup, left to ply his trade at poorly-attended home games in Paris when the eyes of the rugby world were firmly fixed on New Zealand, where the French narrowly lost in the final to the hosts.
His last game in the colours of Les Bleus was the shock 21-22 defeat by Italy in the 2011 Six Nations, and he has made just six starts this season for Racing.
In coach Pierre Berbizier, the Parisian club have a hard task master, a former France and Italy coach who is struggling to bring the best out of a team sat in seventh spot in the Top 14.
Racing said in a statement that Chabal had failed to agree with club President Jacky Lorenzetti on both a contract extension and the club's "playing strategy".
It added that the split was by mutual agreement and made "on good terms", but a sacking is what it effectively boils down to.
"I'm very sad and disappointed. It's the end of an adventure but also of a long ordeal," Chabal told a press conference on Friday.
"I was no longer happy, no longer fulfilled as a player. The cause of that is sporting, on the pitch, and the lack of communication with Pierre Berbizier."
Chabal said the lack of communication between him and the head coach had endured "since the start of the season".
"After long talks with the President, we agreed on the financials [for a contract extension], everything was set.
"After many meetings, it seemed that my sporting level didn't give them enough satisfaction.
"It's then that I opened up my heart and told them exactly what I thought of the management, of the rugby, of my vision of the pro level... We lanced the boil."
Chabal vowed to carry on playing, evoking the possibility of staying on in the Top 14, playing in Japan or even the southern hemisphere.
"I'm free of any contract. I'm free to sign immediately for another club," the former Bourgoin and Sale player said.
"I'm going to give myself some time to think over my last stop. I thought it would be Racing-Metro. There'll be another one.
"I'll take my time to think, to make the good choice, not to muck it up and to have fun. Physically, I feel very, very good."
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