France and Northampton Saints No. 8 Louis Picamoles has become one of the most sought after players in the northern hemisphere following what can only be described as a colossal Six Nations Championship this past spring.
When he arrived at the English Premiership club for the start of this current season, many believed the massive Frenchman would thrive in the exciting and dynamic league and this assertion has been roundly proven to be correct.
At 6′ 3″ and over 18st, the 31-year-old is an imposing figure and with his penchant for carrying ball through opponents rather than around them, carnage has followed Picamoles wherever he roams.
Northampton’s prized possession is now at risk, however, of being wrenched away from Franklin’s Gardens following reports that Montpellier, the club where he started his career, are hell bent on bringing him back to the Top 14.
The fact that Picamoles is only one year into a three-year contract with the English club doesn’t appear to be deterring the cash-rich French side as The Telegraph are reporting on Friday that they are willing to buy him out of the remainder of his contract in order to bring him back to his native soil.
The fact that a contract between club could be circumvented is a worrying development in the game. Even more stunning, however, is the fact that a figure in the region of £1 million is being suggested as the price for such a buyout.
Reports of a pre-contract agreement between Picamoles and Montpellier have been swirling for days now and if this latest development were to be proven true, rugby will have officially entered into territory that has, until now, been reserved for the veritable free-for-all football clubs engage in each transfer season.
As rugby’s top leagues enjoy the increased revenues brought about by television rights and a boom in popularity, a dangerous precedent could be set by the ‘at any cost’ antics that are currently being reported.
With the domestic leagues set to reach their deafening crescendo in the coming weeks, there will follow a summer of intrigue as this latest financial power play develops.
How it plays out could well set the tone for future transfer dealings and while money talks, many will hope the sanctity of a contract will win out over the seducing allure of money.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena