Rugby: Multi-million dollar Dan

By Gregor Paul

The NZRU are desperate for Carter to stay but are resigned to him leaving. Photo / Getty Images
The NZRU are desperate for Carter to stay but are resigned to him leaving. Photo / Getty Images

Dan Carter is set to become the highest paid player in world rugby.

The All Black first five-eighths has signalled to the New Zealand Rugby Union that he has three multi-million dollar deals on the table and is likely to take one and shift to France after the World Cup.

The Herald on Sunday understands that Perpignan, Toulon and Racing Metro are the three clubs so far to have tabled formal offers - all of which are believed to be around the €1 million to €1.2 million ($1.8 million-$2 million) a season mark.

The NZRU are desperate for Carter to extend his current contract now and stay on until at least 2012 but they are resigned to the likelihood that their star player will be leaving.

Having spent his sabbatical period at Perpignan, the Basque club is thought to be in pole position to lure Carter back.

The 28-year-old only managed four games during his time there in early 2009 before a serious injury ruled him out.

Carter has spoken extensively since his return about his love for the club, the region and the country.

He has also spoken about there being a sense of unfinished business because he was not able to play the role he wanted.

Perpignan went on to win the French championship for the first time in 51 years after Carter's injury and, while the All Black didn't play a major on-field role, there are many at the club who say his presence alone was invaluable in galvanising the players.

Strangely, since Carter's injury, Perpignan have been cursed at first five, with several of his predecessors having been forced into long spells in the casualty ward.

Perpignan ended up using nine first fives the year Carter was there and then lost chosen first pick Nicolas Laharrague before the 2009-2010 season even began.

Perpignan lost in the Top 14 final this year to Clermont, coached by former Bay of Plenty stalwart Vern Cotter, and owner Paul Goze is determined to rebuild his squad and take both the domestic championship and Heineken Cup.

Signing Carter on a three-year deal would give the club the security and certainty they require and enable a team to be built around the Cantabrian.

The price tag is enormous but everyone realises Carter is a once-in-a-generation player. When he signed for his previous stint with Perpignan, he was reportedly paid €600,000 for his six months.

The deal he has now been offered is effectively an extension of what he was paid in 2009.

It is believed that French lock-cum-loose forward Sebastien Chabal is currently the highest paid player in the world, earning about $1.8 million a season at Racing Metro.

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal recently wrote a column for French paper Midi Olympique lambasting Carter for "demanding" €1.2 million a season, but it's understood that hasn't stopped the club from making the All Black an offer.

"Is this reasonable? €1.2 million ($2.2 million) for Dan Carter a season for a three-year contract? Everyone is put off by that price. In the current climate of rugby, this has crossed the line," wrote Boudjellal.

The figure, however, is not necessarily what Carter is demanding - but what Perpignan are said to have offered him.

Toulon made a play for Carter in 2008, but he was reluctant to sign because of the large numbers of English speakers in the team and the feeling it would have been too comfortable an experience with so many Kiwis there.

Jonny Wilkinson is currently at Toulon and, despite the club's efforts, he has not yet signed an extension to stay past the end of this season in June 2011.

Speculation is increasing that James Hook could be on his way to Toulon.

The Welsh utility back has confirmed he will be leaving Ospreys at the end of this season.

His preferred position is first five, but he has played for Wales at centre and fullback.

Racing are an ambitious club with a star-studded line-up amassed by heavy expenditure last year.

- Herald on Sunday

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