Nibali joined the team in 2017 in their inaugural season. He was their marquee signing and the squad were built around his ambitions. He originally joined on a rumoured 10 million Euro three-year deal and last summer he was set to extend for one season on similar terms.
However, Nibali and his agent later approached the squad with the plan of negotiating for a two-year deal, requesting similar terms to his last deal.
Cyclingnews understands that the Bahrain-Merida management are unwilling to meet those terms, although when contacted they declined to comment on the matter.
After their first contract discussions for a single season were dismissed by Nibali, there were a second round of talks for an additional second year but with different terms. These terms are common for riders in cycling over the age of 30, with Nibali now 34.
In the months since those two rounds of discussions, Cyclingnews understands that Nibali has agreed on a move to Trek-Segafredo for next year. Several sources have told us that Nibali will move to Trek and bring with him an entourage that includes his brother and fellow Bahrain Merida rider, Antonio Nibali, and coach Paolo Slongo.
The multiple Grand Tour winner, who is targeting the Giro d'Italia later this spring, met with Trek in March and Italia coffee brand Segafredo are keen on having an Italian rider lead the team. They are no strangers to signing experienced Grand Tour riders, having worked with Alberto Contador in the past. Their current Grand Tour leader is Richie Porte. Segafredo believe that Nibali can act as a face in marketing and publicity campaigns, as well as giving them exposure and results on the road.
Bahrain-Merida management would not comment when contacted by Cyclingnews but the squad are said to be scouring the market for a replacement after giving up Nibali. They signed Rohan Dennis at the start of last year but the Australian is yet to hit form this season and his focus remains on time trials and the Olympic Games in 2020 rather than three-week stage races. The departure of Nibali would free up a substantial amount of budget for the team to invest in Grand Tour riders but with Ineos now keeping Team Sky afloat the market is hardly flush with options.
Bahrain-Merida are therefore at a crossroads and must decide on how they choose to structure their future. They made a strong push for the Classics last year, attempting to sign Wout Van Aert before the Belgian eventually agreed terms with Jumbo-Visma. Damiano Caruso, Phil Bauhaus and Dylan Teuns were also signed, with the squad improving their core. Without Nibali, however, they would lack a proven contender in three-week races.
Nairo Quintana leads a list of possible replacements, with Daniel Martin, Wout Poels, Ilnur Zakarin, Esteban Chaves, Enric Mas, Davide Formolo, Jakob Fuglsang and Mikel Landa also out of contract.
Mas looks set for a move to Movistar, while Landa has yet to reach his best in Movistar colours. Astana are rumoured to be interested in the Spaniard, while Chaves is on around one million Euros at Mitchelton. The Colombian has not been able to replicate his form of two seasons ago and could provide a cheaper option if he can ride a strong Giro d'Italia in support of Simon Yates.
As for Trek, it looks as though Nibali will move over on a two-year deal.