England and Saracens lock Maro Itoje is reportedly being lined up by two Top 14 clubs and could leave the Premiership at the end of the season.
Itoje’s current contract with Saracens expires at the end of the current campaign, and he looks set to depart the club if his salary expectations are not met.
Maro Itoje’s salary demands
New salary cap regulations are set to be introduced from next season, meaning clubs will only be allowed one marquee player on their books, with Itoje and club captain Owen Farrell currently Saracens’ two.
It is reported that the England lock is earning around £800,000 per year and has now been offered an extension in the region of around £400,000.
With the 29-year-old’s future now uncertain, two Top 14 clubs have reportedly expressed their interest in signing the two-time British and Irish Lion.
While Racing 92 have often been linked with signing Itoje, the Parisian club have recently signed retired France international Romain Taofifenua from Lyon, which is likely to rule out a move for the Saracens star.
However, Lyon have now freed up a significant chunk of their budget to recruit Taofifenua’s replacement, and while Jean Kleyn is already one of their targets, The Rugby Paper reports that Itoje has been added to their shortlist.
The report adds that Lyon could face a similar issue to Saracens as they are believed to have only budgeted £570,000 for Taofifenua’s replacement, while Itoje is seeking a staggering £1 million per season pay package.
The same publication adds that Toulon are also weighing up a move for the England star, who could join World Cup teammate David Ribbans at the club.
Exodus to France to continue?
A move to France would put Itoje’s international career on pause due to England’s current eligibility rules and would be another blow to head coach Steve Borthwick.
It is not yet clear if the RFU’s planned hybrid contracts would be able to sufficiently supplement Itoje’s salary enough to keep him in the Premiership.
With the unstable financial state of English rugby, several Premiership stars have been targeted by Top 14 clubs, with recent reports also linking Kyle Sinckler and Lewis Ludlam with moves to Toulon.
It is also unlikely that another Premiership club could sign Itoje as their marquee player, with many having already filled the role.