By Susan Westemeyer
Was T-Mobile ready to shell out 10 million euros for Alejandro Valverde? That's what the Spanish newspaper as.com has claimed. Two million would be to buy out his contract from Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears. The other eight would have been his salary over three years -- some 2.6 million a year, or about double what he is now apparently earning. Plus bonuses for good results, of course. T-Mobile has denied that such sums of money were ever mentioned.
Caisse d'Epargne may be taking the threat to the star more seriously than they want to let on. Team manager Eusebio Unzúe apparently met Monday in Murcia with Valverde and his two representatives, Francisco Sánchez Sabater and Antonio Sánchez Martinez, a father and son pair who usually represent football players. Unzúe has requested several days to prepare a counteroffer to the alleged T-Mobile offer, saying it would be a "disaster" for the team to start the season without its leader.
But the problem for the Spanish-French team may well be where to find the money to pay that leader. According to AS, Illes Balears ended its sponsorship last season, but orally agreed to continue through May 2007, if not through the entire season -- but nothing has yet been signed or made official. And the French bank, Caisse d'Epargne, does not seem inclined to increase its share, the newspaper reported.
The team hopes to conclude its negotiations with Valverde as soon as possible, so that it will know by the end of the week whether he will stay with the team or not. Valverde signed with the team in October 2004, when it was Illes Balears who then bought out his contract from the smaller Kelme team.