Five weeks into the Top 14 season, and the transfer rumour mill is hitting the high gears, with reports in France that Montpellier have approached crocked Scotland and Glasgow Warriors fullback Stuart Hogg with a big-money offer.
Whispers about the two-time Six Nations Player of the Tournament – who has this week undergone ankle surgery after picking up a knock against Munster and is set to miss the next 10 to 12 weeks, an absence that Hogg said he was “gutted” about – have been swirling for some time. In February, UK newspaper The Daily Mail reported that the billionaire-backed club was prepared to offer Hogg a €1million-a-year contract, which would make him the highest-paid European player in history.
At the time, club owner Mohed Altrad said: “Vern [Cotter] is free to propose players and it is up to me to say yes or no. Most of the time, I say yes. Vern hasn’t told me about Hogg yet, but we will of course be interested if that can be done. He is an extremely talented player.”
Now, France’s twice-weekly rugby newspaper Midi Olympique reports that last season’s Top 14 finalists have stepped up their interest in the player and submitted a formal offer to reunite Hogg with former Scotland coach Cotter.
The news will step up the pressure on Warriors to finalise a deal to keep their star player at Scotstoun. Earlier in September head coach Dave Rennie said that Hogg “wants to stay” at Glasgow amid ongoing talks.
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But the news will not come as a surprise to anyone at Glasgow. Hogg, a two-time British and Irish Lion, has spent his entire professional career the club, but his contract expires at the end of the season and Rennie readily admitted he would him to be a target for wealthy French clubs.
“He’s probably the highest-profile player in Scotland. I’d imagine there will be a number of big clubs who will target someone of his ability,” he told BBC Scotland.
“Certainly we … want to keep him here, so we’ll see how that pans out.”
In playing terms, the move would make sense. Benjamin Fall and Johan Goosen have covered the fullback position this season, but bringing in a specialist would allow the former to play his usual wide role, while the latter could switch positions more easily as required.
It does, however, prompt a question. Another expensive foreign import would mean that one or a number of well-paid overseas players would have to be released from Montpellier’s books to comply with France’s €11.3million salary cap and tightening player quota regulations in France. Who should the club drop to accommodate Hogg?
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