The will he, won’t he, what’s he, where’s he, saga of South Africa’s Johan Goosen has taken another twist, days after it seemed he was set for a move to the Pro 14.
And the news is not good for fans of the expanded league’s new boys, Cheetahs, as it appears Goosen will head back to the Top 14 rather than rejoin the club where he got his rugby break.
Montpellier’s billionaire owner Mohed Altrad as emerged as the most likely to be the mystery benefactor willing to pay a revised buyout clause figure, now said to be somewhere between €1.2million and €1.4million, to release the 25-year-old from the five-year deal with Racing 92 that he walked out on in December 2016.
Now, French broadcaster RMC reports that sources have told its journalists a deal could be signed early next week, allowing the fly-half to restart his rugby career at the Altrad Stadium. It would bring to an end a 10-month break due to legal issues following his premature ‘retirement’.
RMC insists no agreement has yet been reached despite several meetings at Racing’s Plessis-Robinson headquarters and ‘other venues’. Meanwhile, it reported Goosen’s agents refused to comment when contacted by its journalists.
But it seems likely Racing – who recently announced the signing of Pat Lambie – would be willing to do a deal to take Goosen off their books. He is still named as a player on the club website, and is officially called to meetings and training sessions.
RMC claims that Altrad is determined to bring his man back to the Top 14. The broadcaster says he has travelled to South Africa several times in recent months, and has lately stepped up efforts to bring the Burgersdorp native to Montpellier.
If Goosen does, finally, head to southwest France, he will join a formidable club dripping with talent. He would line up alongside countrymen Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Steyn, as well as French stars Louis Picamoles, Benjamin Fall and Alexandre Dumoulin.
Montpellier have won three from three already this season, picking up 14 points out of a possible 15.
But, with former All Black Aaron Cruden ruling the roost at 10, chances are he will spend most of his time at fullback.
Goosen’s last competitive game was in November 2016. A month later, amid apparently insurmountable problems between club and player, he announced his retirement from the game – rather than continue to pick up his reported monthly €40,000 pay-cheque from Racing. He also said he had taken up a position as a commercial director of a stud farm in his native South Africa.
His sudden decision prompted Racing to launch a legal action against him for breach of contract. That is one of the issues that will need to be settled before he can pull on a Montpellier shirt.