Maro Itoje is facing a major career dilemma, after being offered a new contract by Saracens worth around 50 per cent of his current deal, which is due to expire at the end of this season.
The 29-year-old England lock is believed to earn approximately £800,000 per year, as one of the highest-paid players in the country, but Mail Sport understands that his club have only been able to offer him £400,000-£425,000 per year to extend his stay.
This is because a change to the salary cap regulations means clubs can now only designate one ‘marquee’ player, rather than the previous two, and Owen Farrell – also out of contract in the summer – will retain that category at Saracens.
While that allows the England captain to be paid outside the cap, Itoje’s wages will now have to fit within the spending limit, which applies across the top division.
That figure is due to go back up next season from the lower threshold of £5million to £6.4m – which was the cap before the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic.
Maro Itoje has been at Saracens since he was 14-years-old and has made 119 appearances
The club have reportedly prioritised England captain Owen Farrell for their ‘marquee’ salary
However, the rise seemingly still isn’t sufficient to allow Saracens to offer anything like the sort of lucrative terms they were able to previously.
The up-shot is that Itoje is grappling with a major quandary about his future plans. While he would be able to command a much higher club salary in France – where Racing 92 are known admirers – or in Japan – where All Black fly-half Richie Mo’unga is believed to be earning £1.2m per season – the equation is complicated.
As an England regular, Itoje can earn £23,000 per Test match, which serves to significantly increase his annual income.
As the decorated Lion reveals in an exclusive interview with Mail Sport today, another factor is the likely roll-out of so-called ‘hybrid’ contracts, for 25 England players.
This will mean the RFU pay for increased access to core squad members, which will ease the financial burden on their clubs and reduce the threat of an increased exodus of players across the Channel, or to the Far East. Itoje is certain to be offered a deal by the union, to keep him at home, if the scheme can be agreed soon.
Just a couple of months ago, reports emerged that suggested he was aiming to negotiate a pay rise at Saracens, to put him on a par with new Bath recruit, Finn Russell, who is understood to be earning £1m per year in the West Country. But such salaries are rare as English clubs are having to tighten their belts in an era of financial turmoil.
A move abroad means Itoje can’t play for England and it would put a Lions tour in jeopardy
Scotland fly-half Finn Russel is currently believed to be earning close to £1m at Bath
Even the wealthier Premiership sides are struggling to match the wages on offer in France. Jack Willis agreed a new deal at Toulouse after the former Wasps flanker received insufficient offers to return to English rugby.
And Henry Arundell is weighing up interest from Bath and Gloucester – but they cannot match the money Racing 92 are prepared to pay, to keep him in Paris for longer.
Itoje has a lot to consider. He will want to play on for England – which won’t be possible if he moves abroad, in the circumstances – and he will want to go on another Lions tour in 2025.
But he is also a shrewd individual who understands that he has a significant market value, in a short career. The onus is now on the RFU to hurry through their hybrid contracts plan, although it remains to be seen whether that concept would have the unanimous support of the clubs.
Henry Arundell has attracted interest from English clubs who can’t offer Racing 92’s salary
Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail