« Goossens is the new Marco Van Basten ! »
– Roger Henrotay, Sports Director Standard Liège (1988-1998)
Michaël Goossens, a legend in the shadow of Sclessin.
A flash in the often dark sky, drowned in the fumes from the factories of Cockerill, Usinor, Arcelor or, since 2006, Arcelor-Mittal d’Ougrée, Michaël Goossens became a legend in Sclessin. But it could have been much more than that … maybe even as a Roger Claessen, eternal symbol of Liege football.
Standard is embedded in his DNA. Born in Ougrée on November 30, 1973, but let’s start at the very beginning… when little ‘Mika’ kicks his first ball in the streets of Tilleur and then, at the age of 6, plays his first games at Buraufosse.
Then he goes to Daring Club de Cointe – whose youth academy is then supervised by … Standard, which, however, does not notice him at that time! – before crossing the river Meuse and putting on the red-black shirt of RFC Seraing, where he signs his first membership card. At that club he was spotted by Francis Nicolay who was then responsible for the youth academy at Sclessin.
Francis Nicolay, the reference in guiding young players, played during his active playing career with RFC Seraing (1969-1970 and 1975-1978 alternating between 2nd and 3rd division) and with RFC Liégeois (128 games and 27 goals with the elite between 1970 and 1975). During this last period he even managed to win a selection with the Red Devils of raymond goethals (73 minutes and a 1: 0 defeat against East Germany on March 13, 1973).
Arriving at the Rouches before he reaches the age of 17, things will go very fast for Goossens. On January 13, 1991, barely six months later, Sir Georg Kessler, the German authority, offered him his first selection when Waregem (not yet Zulte at that time) came to visit: 1-0, goal for the Hungarian Miklos Molnar (ed. do you still remember that remonte against AA Ghent in the cup?).
Soon known for a trio that formed the famous “Four Musketeers”: Philippe Léonard, Régis Genaux and Roberto Bisconti. A quartet that produced so many ‘urban legends’ during Liège’s night life: “We grew up together. On the field but also off the pitch. ”, he laughs. « Four young Walloons since Reg ‘came from Charleroi, it was a great thing for us, the club, the supporters and the media. Let’s just say we quickly built up a reputation … » A reputation largely…. deserved!
But, most importantly, the performances on the pitch came in quick succession. Two goals against Auxerre in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup, a match that has been engraved in all of fans’ memory since that day. Guy Roux‘s Burgundian club will be supplanted like never before (2-0 after 48 minutes) before miraculously equalizing despite a demonstration of Arie Haan‘s troops who had some exceptional talents such as Gilbert Bodart, André Cruz, Mircea Rednic, Guy Hellers, Stephane Demol, Frans Van Rooy, Patrick Vervoort, Marc Wilmots or Henk Vos …
But it doesn’t stop there. The team fought for the title until the end of the season and as icing on the cake it also won the Belgian Cup against Charleroi… in anderlecht: « For so many reasons it was unforgettable. The victory, of course, because it was the first trophy since 1983, the fraternity with the fans, the stifling heat in which the firefighters had to spray the supporters of both camps and an evening without resonance in the streets of Liège … »
Meanwhile, the young Liège striker – still not 20 years old! – also got his first call up with the national team, on February 13, 1993 in Cyprus, with a World Cup qualifier (0-3) where he replaced Enzo Scifo towards the end of the match.
During the 94/95 season, he will be part of the… green legion – Robert Waseige‘s favorite color that year – to keep anderlecht on their toes until the last days of the season, with a 2-1 defeat in the Vanden Stock Stadium as season’s low: the exclusion of Filip de Wilde after his attack on Dinga, the equalizer of Goossens, the punches of Rutjes, a dizzying performance by Marc Degryse and the equalizer that Marc Wilmots was denied (Frans Van den Wijngaert, the referee on duty would later stating: “I had to follow my linesman’s advice. I reacted instinctively. We didn’t have a video then to review certain actions …“). Undoubtedly, a win would have brought the title back to Liege, something we would have to wait 25 long years for (1983-2008).
An almost golden period to which we will also remember the statement by Roger Henrotay, then sports director at Standard: “Goossens is the new Van Basten!” « When you are just 18 and you are told this, it is quite disturbing … »
Van Basten is a three-time Golden Ball winner (1988, 1989, 1992), wins Euro 1988 with the Netherlands after an unforgettable final against the Soviet Union (2-0) and wins two Champions League titles (1989 and 1990). In addition, he records exceptional statistics with 277 goals (in 373 appearances) with Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan and his 24 roses in 58 caps for Oranje. In short, a monster …
« I believe that Roger Henrotay tried to put me in the shop window, he dreamed of a transfer of 100 million. Belgian francs, um, no euros (laughs) … » But the lure from abroad is on the up. He eventually leaves for Genoa with an almost unexpected twist: « René Vandereycken, who I knew from Standard, wanted me at … anderlecht. He had come to visit me after training in Italy and insisted on transferring me to Brussels … » But the love for his Rouches held him back. Did that weigh on the final decision? « No doubt. But I didn’t have time to think about it, Schalke 04 was at my door and convinced me to join the German club… »
Schalke symbolized by … Marc Wilmots and the 1997 UEFA Cup match against Inter Milan (1-0 in the first leg after a cannon shot from Wilmots and the decisive goal to win the only European trophy in the history of the popular German club): « I discovered the… discipline (laughs). There was professionalism, rigor, constant pressure, physically, tactically and mentally … »
And a new highlight, again in the European Cup against Inter Milan for a very animated revenge in March 1998: « We were beaten 1-0 in Meazza, but when we returned with our 70,000 supporters to Gelsenkirchen, an immense atmosphere was created. I scored at the end of the game and we had a foot in the semi-final but the Nigerian Taribo West equalized … »
A more than satisfying first season (24 games, 4 goals) before being bothered by too much physical discomfort (12m / 1goal in 98/99 and 15m / 0 goals in 99/00). During the 2000 transfer window, he returns home for the next three seasons, adding 100 games and 36 goals to his counter at Standard, finishing twice as the club’s second top scorer (12 goals in 2001 behind the Norwegian’s Ole Martin Aarst with 14 and 10 goals in 2002 behind Ali Lukunku‘s 13). From an achievement point of view, his return is not brilliant: a Belgian cup final lost against Genk (1-4 after opening the score in the 1st minute by Frédéric Pierre), a 3rd (2001), two 5th (2000 and 2002) and one 7th (2003) place in the championship.
The Liège chapter closes with a respectable 266 official matches (88 goals) and a top performance with 74 goals in 226 matches in the Belgian league. A short trip to Austria to win the double with Grazer SK, then a more discreet return to the Belgian pitches with Sint-Truiden (2004/05: 15 games, 1 goal) and KAS Eupen (2005 / 6:16 games , 2 goals).
And the chapter of the Red Devils? A version of highs and lows in the end, with sometimes high expectations before they are adjusted again …
His only goal for the Red Devils (in 14 international matches, until October 7, 2000) was scored against Germany (1-2). A historic day on August 23, 1995 for a friendly match at the Heysel as Paul van Himst will play with… seven (!) Standard players: Bodart, Genaux, Léonard, Foguenne, Bettagno, Schepens and thus Goossens. A team that would count only three players in their thirties with Bodart, Smidts (32 years old) and Staelens (31 years old).
In the final evaluation of his international career, one is left with a feeling of ‘almost‘, because for various reasons (injuries, bad form or … tactics), Paul Van Himst (World Cup 1994), Georges Leekens (World Cup) 1998) and even Robert Waseige (Euro 200, World Cup 2002) did not to include him in their selection for the major tournaments. « My real disappointment was France in 1998. I had a great season with Schalke where we finished 5th in the league and reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. I was part of the preselection of 25 players. There were the brothers Mpenza, Nilis and Oliveira. The brothers didn’t really have a strong season… » But everyone knows Leekens‘ attachment to the duo that he launched at Excelsior Mouscron.
In 1994 it was Josip Weber who was miraculously pulled out of the hat at the last minute with the known results. After the dramatic 1:0 defeat against Saudi Arabia, the naturalized Weber received a 4.5 / 10 from Le Soir with the comment: “Proves that he will not be the striker of the Belgians at the World Cup. Despite the pressure from the team, he was unable to finish one single chance.”
In 2000, it was an injury that kept him away from a tournament that was organized in his own country: « I played a very strong season with Standard and we qualified for the cup final. I was already playing with an infiltration due to an injury and ended up dropping out with my shoulder dislocated. »
In 2002: « I was selected by Robert Waseige for the friendly game in April against Slovakia, but had to finish the season with a game for Standard against GBA first. But I was pretty confident, especially since I was in the pre-selection of 30 players. I thought my polyvalence would play in my favor. Emile Mpenza got injured, however, and the coach chose to call up Strupar ... »
Josip Weber – Branko Strupar, two Croats who barely made an impression with the Devils, even though Weber – who died in 2017 – scored 5 goals in the Belgium-Zambia friendly match (9-0) on June 4, 1994. Just at the time that the nucleus of the selection was finally assembled. « I’ve always been a supporter of the national team. Despite legitimate disappointments or fate, I have always respected the manager’s choices. Today I am amazed at the level of the current team. We mainly play to win. Evolving with monstrous talents like Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens, Witsel or Lukaku must be great … »
His conversion? « I was immediately hired at Adidas to be their ambassador, then I went through sports betting to become an expert consultant at Decathlon … »
TV analyst? « There were some contacts. I went to RTL once, but it’s really not my thing. A football match, I get too emotionally involved. I’d rather stay at home to enjoy the game … »
Manager or coach of the strikers? « With my 200 matches in the first division I can immediately claim the UEFA B diploma (note: there are five categories with D, C, B, Elite Youth and Pro). But with my rehabilitation and Covid, I don’t really know how it works … »
What about Standard today? « We are all being punished by this virus. However, I don’t miss a match in T3 with the real fans. It’s a real punishment right now. Sclessin on television without spectators is simply very sad … »
And a Mika who is still in rehab after a third shoulder operation: « I had two operations on my left shoulder while playing with Schalke. Last year I fell and caused a triple fracture in my right shoulder. With this Corona, the rehabilitation was very disrupted. You have to patiently take your pain. Like all Standard supporters (laughs) … »
And the four Musketeers, 25 years later, what’s left of it? With, of course, a poignant memory of his friend Régis Genaux: « I think about Régis every day, we all miss him. Biscot (ed. Roberto Bisconti)? A phone call or messages on Facebook to keep each other informed. Philippe? With his business and his travels we don’t see much of each other anymore, that’s right … »
That’s life for a real Rouche … for eternity.
(c) Christian Raspiller – December 2020
Date of birth: 30 November 1973, in Ougrée
1st affiliation at Standard: 1 July 1990 – 6 September 1996
2nd affiliation at Standard: 3 January 2000 – 2 July 2003
Trophy avec le Standard: 1 – Belgian F.A. Cup (1993)
International games/goals: 14 / 1
1983 – 1990
R.F.C. Sérésien (17)
1990 – 1996
1996 – 1997
1997 – 1999
2000 – 2003
2003 – 2004
2004 – 2005
2005 – 2006
2006 – 2007
Royal Standard de Liège
Genoa C.F.C. (Ita)
F.C. Schalke 04 (All)
R. Standard de Liège
Grazer A.K. (Aut)
K. Sint-Truidense V.V. (373)
K.A.S. Eupen (4276)
R.U.S. Bercheux (4344)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup