South African Johan Goosen could return to top-flight rugby with new Pro 14 side Cheetahs in a matter of weeks, after a mystery benefactor offered to buy him out of his five-year deal with Top 14 outfit Racing 92.
French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reports that an unknown individual has approached Racing owner Jacky Lorenzetti and offered to trigger the €1.5million buyout clause in the versatile back’s contract.
It true, it would free up valuable funds to bring Pat Lambie to France earlier than scheduled.
A number of meetings between the club and emissaries of the mystery benefactor were due to take place – in Dubai, Luxembourg and Switzerland – to discuss the matter, but were all cancelled at the 11th hour. Lorenzetti and his lawyers, meanwhile, have been busy trying to trace the source of the money, according to the report, as speculation mounts over who could be willing and able to front up the cash.
Midol has put forward a couple of theories as to who may be involved. They include Montpellier’s billionaire owner Mohed Altrad, who was known to be interested in signing Goosen before he did his sudden retirement act in December 2016. It also suggested the South African rugby federation, which may be keen to see the versatile player back in the international fold.
Once the money, wherever it comes from, is paid, Goosen will be released from his Racing 92 contract and able to play rugby again. Midol claims he is expected to start on the comeback trail at Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs, not far from his rural home.
Racing, meanwhile, would finally be able to sign a replacement for the long-absent Goosen – and will have an additional €500,000 a year freed up from the cancellation of his contract to spend.
Goosen played his last game for Racing in November 2016. A month later, he announced his retirement from the game rather than continue to pick up the reported €40,000 a month that playing rugby in the capital would have earned him, and that he had taken up a position as a commercial director of a stud farm in his native South Africa.
Lambie, meanwhile, reportedly signed a three-year deal with Racing that was set to start mid-2018. But Racing have said that they would be willing to bring Lambie to the club as soon as possible under additional player or medical joker rules.
This is not the first time that speculation has mounted over Goosen’s rugby future. Earlier this year, his agent reportedly said he may have been willing to return to Racing – contradicting earlier statements from friends and family that he would rather go to prison than return to the club.