Ian Madigan leaves door open for Leinster return after Bordeaux switch
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 €1.2million.
However, despite the fact that he will nearly treble his current Leinster earnings, the gifted 26-year-old playmaker was keen to ensure that any inevitable 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 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 erstwhile 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 his first-choice out-half.
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.
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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 the Heineken Cup twice, a Challenge Cup and two Pro12 titles during his time with Leinster. He has also won 25 Irish caps and two Six Nations titles.
"It was inevitable Ian Madigan would leave," tweeted Brian O'Driscoll, adding: "Deserves to start as a 10 somewhere so good luck to him. Really hope it works out."
"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.