Timing is right to make French move: Madigan
Ian Madigan has left the door open for a return to Leinster despite confirming that he will join moneybags Top 14 outfit Bordeaux Bègles on a lucrative two-year contract which will see him earn a gross salary of at least €1.2m (£950,000).
Despite the fact that he will nearly treble his current Leinster earnings, the gifted 26-year-old playmaker was keen to ensure that any improvement in his personal terms would not compromise his rugby ambitions.
Hence, after Conor O'Shea's Harlequins cooled their interest, the Irish international decided to reject proposed moves to second-tier English side Bristol, who had been offering him €1m over two seasons, as well as a move south to Munster, as suggested by the IRFU.
Bordeaux are a highly-ambitious Top 14 side backed by textiles millionaire Laurent Marti and they have already declared their Champions Cup and Top 14 title intentions by signing Australian star Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Madigan's decision to leave is prompted by the need to acquire regular first-team rugby in his preferred position of out-half.
Despite his compatriot Jonathan Sexton's own two-year stint in France with Racing Metro, Madigan failed to force himself to the head of the queue under Leinster boss Matt O'Connor, who predominantly preferred Jimmy Gopperth.
And, despite starting in Sunday's Pro12 derby win in Thomond Park, O'Connor's successor as Leinster coach Leo Cullen has settled on Sexton as first-choice.
Madigan is aware that his international ambitions will be affected by a move overseas, as was confirmed by IRFU high performance director David Nucifora in a pre-Christmas media briefing, but coach Joe Schmidt will not definitively rule him out of his plans during his time abroad.
"While this was a very difficult decision for me to make, leaving the club that I have represented my whole professional life, I feel that the timing is right and it is a challenge that I'm looking forward to," said Madigan.
Madigan has played 135 times for Leinster, scoring 765 points and 24 tries since his debut in May 2009 against the Newport Gwent Dragons.
He has won two Heineken Cups, a Challenge Cup and two Pro12 titles during his time with Leinster. He has also won 25 Irish caps and two Six Nations titles.
"Bordeaux Begles are a team that are making strides and I look forward to being part of that journey and to experiencing a new style of rugby and a new life in France," said Madigan
There have been more than a few voices from the bleachers in recent weeks and months ruminating noisily about Madigan's next move and how somehow it should benefit Irish rugby more than the man himself.
Few seemed as overly agitated as to how Madigan's next move might benefit Madigan.
The best thing about the confirmation from Leinster Rugby, that the 26-year-old will spend two years in the rather hospitable environment of France's sixth largest city, is that Madigan has decided to prioritise the only thing that matters at this time in his rugby career and life's journey.
"Ian has been a tremendous servant to Leinster and Irish rugby and we wish him well with his move abroad," said Leinster coach Cullen.
"We fully understand his motivations for deciding to join Bordeaux. Ian has come through the Leinster Academy and age-grade system and at 26 still has a huge future in the game and we may see him return to Leinster at some point."