Dan Carter, the world's most marketable fly-half has signed on the dotted line for a cool £1.25m three-year deal, as another milestone in professional rugby has been reached
IT’S THE numbers that get you gasping.
Dan Carter is off to join Racing Metro in Paris on a three-year deal in the aftermath of the World Cup. If the rumours are to be believed, Carter could earn as much as £1m per year. Just to set that into context, he would be the first ever rugby player to earn that much through a single contract – what he would also earn as an ambassador for undercrackers and global sporting brands is anyone’s guess.
Want more context? Versatile sometime-fly-half JJ Hanrahan is allegedly considering a new €150,000-a-year deal with Munster, so you could stretch to saying Carter is worth over seven Hanrahans.
The man holding Racing’s purse strings, property mogul Jacky Lorenzetti, told the press on Thursday: “Carter will be the best-paid player at Racing but also the least expensive because of the economic benefits.” And it is easy to understand what is meant by “benefits”.
The incumbent marquee fly-half at Racing is Jonny Sexton. He is out at the moment with head problems, and reports say he could be out until mid-February. By that time he will be ensconced in the Ireland set-up. For their outlay, Racing haven’t been able to churn out as much rugby as they would have liked from the playmaker and in World Cup year, in his last season before returning to Leinster, Sexton will be gunning for success in green. The upside is Carter will not have distractions during an international window next season.
It is unfortunate, rather than malicious, that Sexton won’t play week after week for Racing. However, with All Black centurion Carter severing ties with the New Zealand national team it means he can play whenever called-upon. Now, this will be Carter’s second stint in France and we all know he had a near allergic reaction to the word “fit” last time he played in the Top 14 – he made only five appearances for Perpignan.
But Racing are an ambitious team, who plan to move into a hyper-modern mothership of a stadium in the centre of Paris. They don’t want convention and they don’t want dull. However his form is, Carter will be hauled out. Over and over again. Get his face out there, fill stands, get shirt sales, and get Jacky that “economic benefit”, baby.
See, while Carter had some time out to travel, kiss babies and flog credit cards as he saw out a sabbatical not so long ago, no one forgot who he was or what he has done. He made his long-awaited start for the All Blacks against Scotland recently and with a few tackles, 29 passes and just three kicks out of hand, it felt more like the game was going on around him, but his track record is unquestionable. Scrap that. It’s highly marketable.
He has 1,457 Test points – more than any other player. He has 102 caps. He has beaten Australia 18 times, South Africa 14 and England ten. He is the top points scorer in Super Rugby history. He has won titles with the Crusaders.
So for all of this, you have to concede that if anyone was going to net such a pay day, it was probably going to be Carter. He may not be the fleet-footed player he was and he has a tough job ousting Aaron Cruden from the All Blacks starting line-up in 2015. But after a career of being a demi-God on New Zealand’s south island, maybe we’ll not begrudge him the move. Players like him and Australian lock James Horwill (who is joining Harlequins) coming over to ply their trade in Europe aren’t the bad guys; they are just the high-profile foot soldiers in an ever-expanding war for your attention. It may feel a bit dirty, but rugby is only going to get more hyped, more flashy, more costly.
Dan Carter has bought into that in a big way. And as he has, maybe even someone as celebrated will be willing to adhere to Racing’s club rules and live on the outskirts of Paris, away from all the distracting bright lights. There’s enough of that in the fly-half’s life already.