Bahrain-Merida offer Nibali two-year contract extension to ward off Trek-Segafredo

Bahrain-Merida are ready to propose a two-year contract extension to Vincenzo Nibali in a bid to ward off the interest of Trek-Segafredo, who reportedly also met with the Italian rider on Monday. Nibali’s current deal expires at the end of this year, making him a major target for several WorldTour teams.  

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Nibali and his agent Johnny Carera held talks with Trek-Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena and Luca Baraldi of Segafredo at Malpensa airport on Monday morning, before meeting with the Bahrain-Merida management team of Brent Copeland, Alex Carera and Milan Erzen in the afternoon.

Nibali seems happy to play out his transfer talks via the media. In October he hinted he would be happy to consider an offer from Team Sky and was irritated that Bahrain-Merida were only willing to offer him a one-year deal. Nibali turned 34 in November. He had considered retiring after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but now hopes to race until at least 2021 if not longer. 

Bahrain-Merida initially offered Nibali a one-year deal for 2020 but Copeland confirmed that the team are ready to offer Nibali a new, two-year contract for 2020 and 2021 as they fight to keep their team leader. Formal discussions with Nibali had been previously delayed while Bahrain-Merida negotiated with the McLaren Group, who recently became a 50 percent partner in the team. Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat has a majority stake in McLaren, while Bahraini prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is the owner of the Bahrain-Merida team.

"We don’t want to lose Nibali, quite the opposite,” Copeland told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We have offered him a two-year contract and, in any case, Erzen has always been clear: so long as Vincenzo has the Bahrain jersey, the prince insists that the whole staff will be at his disposal.

"This week McLaren will also get involved in the negotiations and before the end of the month, we’ll present our official renewal proposal. I think there’ll be another meeting with Vincenzo on February 21."

If Nibali were to switch to Trek-Segafredo, he would be accompanied by a working group comprising his brother Antonio, coach Paolo Slongo, soigneur Michele Pallini, doctor Emilio Magni and osteopath Gianluca Carretta. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the Trek-Segafredo package would be worth some €4 million per year, while Nibali would serve as a brand ambassador for Segafredo coffee during the final years of his career and possibly after retirement. 

Nibali reportedly met with Segafredo president Massimo Zanetti in Treviso in October, ahead of Monday’s discussions with the Trek-Segafredo team. Trek-Segafredo were previously among the Sicilian’s main suitors when his contract with Astana expired in 2016, though he ultimately opted to move to the new Bahrain-Merida squad.

Nibali will start his season at the UAE Tour in late February, and his 2019 racing schedule includes both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. He is due to head to Catalunya with his teammates for a January training camp. 

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