Club Brugge have parted company with goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen after he was linked to an online smear campaign waged against some of his team-mates.
The 29-year-old has been released by mutual consent after it emerged that his entourage of friends – including his girlfriend and brother – had allegedly engaged in a campaign to criticise rival goalkeepers Geert De Vlieger and Colin Coosemans via fan websites.
The former Belgium international, who joined Brugge in 2000 and had a contract for more four years, was demoted to the reserves after the accusations first came to light but has now seen his contract terminated.
A club statement read: “Club Bruges and Stijn Stijnen have, by mutual agreement, terminated their co-operation with immediate effect. This decision was necessary after the events of recent days.
“Both sides would like to thank each other for their co-operation in recent years and will continue to refrain from any comment.”
Stijnen made 30 international appearances for Belgium from 2006-09 before falling out with then-coach Dick Advocaat, who refused to play him.
In comments linked to his friends on the fan web site blauwzwartforum.be, the goalkeeper was described as a “hero”’ or “wonderful” and “top,” while fellow Brugge goalkeepers and management were derided.
“Very weak game of (Geert) De Vlieger,” one comment said of Stijnen’s replacement. “Very average goalkeeper who has committed serious blunders in the past weeks.”
Stijnen’s family said in a statement to VRT network that his brother Steven and girlfriend Veerle “take all responsibility and offer Stijn their apologies, who, unfairly, gets all the blame.”