According to the Italian sports newspaper, Astana offered Liquigas-Cannondale three million Euro to release Nibali from his contract and offered Nibali 1.5 million Euro a year for two years. It seems Astana was ready to spend a total of six million Euro to secure a new stage race leader. Current team leader Alexandre Vinokourov is set to retire in 2012 and the team has also been trying to secure classics rider Philippe Gilbert.
The offer was apparently made before the start of the Giro d’Italia but was quickly turned down by Liquigas-Cannondale team manager Roberto Amadio.
“Our philosophy is clear. Nibali is one of the team figure heads and wouldn’t be sold for any price. It’s not about money,” Gazzetta reported Amadio as saying.
Last year, Liquigas let Roman Kreuziger buy himself out of his contract and join Astana but this was because the Czech rider was looking for a bigger leadership role. The Italian team was happy to let him go, preferring to have Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali as its stage race leaders.
Nibali finished third in the Giro d’Italia behind Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Italian rival Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD). He returns to racing today at the Tour of Slovenia, which begins with a prologue time trial.
Nibali will not ride the Tour de France but is set to return to the Vuelta Espana to defend his 2010 victory.