The world’s best player, All Black flyhalf Dan Carter, is the latest target of the cash-flush French clubs.
France’s Top 14 clubs, already pullulated with imports, have stepped up their recruitment drives in recent weeks – targeting high-profile international stars like the IRB’s Player of the Year, Carter, and South Africa’s Player of the Year Bryan Habana, who is also the scorer of the IRB’s Try of the Year.
It emerged on Friday that Toulon have entered the race to sign Carter.
Another cash-flush French outfit, Racing Metro, looks set to go head-to-head with Toulon in a tug-’o-war that could make the All Black No.10 the highest-paid player of all time.
Although Carter signed a four-year contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union before the 2011 World Cup, the 30-year-old does have the option of taking a sabbatical.
And, according to the Rugby Paper in England, indications are he will enforce that after next year’s year-end Internationals.
The newspaper believes there are no shortage of suitors for Carter – with Bath owner Bruce Craig a big fan, while Japanese clubs would be able to more than match any financial package offered in the Top 14.
Yet Carter has a sense of unfinished business in France after his last spell in the country, with Perpignan four years ago, was curtailed by an Achilles tendon injury.
Racing Metro President Jacky Lorenzetti is a long-term admirer of Carter, reportedly offering him a £4-million, three-year contract after the World Cup.
Now, according to the Rugby Paper, Toulon’s own multi-millionaire owner, Mourad Boudjellal, has entered the fray.
Boudjellal recently proclaimed that Habana will ‘almost certainly” join his team next year.
A source told the newspaper that “Boudjellal has been in contact with Dan’s representatives” so it will probably come down to a bidding war between therm and Metro.
“Metro really want to bring him over and what they have in their favour is that Carter is set to have a young family and Paris would be very attractive in that regard.”
However, with Metro struggling in the Top 14, Boudjellal will be able to guarantee European Cup action and is known as a man who gets what he wants – even with Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Frederic Michalak among his current options at flyhalf.
Carter’s deal would run along similar lines to his Perpignan deal meaning he would miss the Super Rugby season in 2014, as well as the June Tests, but return in time for the Rugby Championship.
If Carter did join Toulon it would probably coincide with the end of Wilkinson’s career there.
Wilkinson, 33, is considering a one-year extension to his contract.