Vincenzo Nibali won't begin his 2019 season until late February, but he is already in the process of negotiating his future for 2020 and beyond. His contract with Bahrain-Merida expires at the end of this year and La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Trek-Segafredo are interested in signing him for the 2020 season.
The Italian is holding contract talks with Bahrain-Merida in Milan on Monday, but according to La Gazzetta, he was also due to meet with representatives from Segafredo and the team at Malpensa airport earlier in the day.
The Bahrain-Merida team was built around Nibali on its inception in 2017, and in December, he intimated that his preference was to remain with the squad.
"Yes, the intention is to continue here but we have to talk about it, put pen to paper and all the other things," Nibali told Cyclingnews at the Bahrain-Merida training camp in Hvar, Croatia last month. "And obviously when a rider is in the final year of his contract, he can receive other offers."
Nibali’s contract talks were delayed while Bahrain-Merida negotiated its recently-unveiled partnership with McLaren Group last Autumn. The British automotive group is now a 50 per cent partner in Bahrain-Merida. La Gazzetta reports that Bahrain-Merida's initial offer to Nibali was a contract extension of one year, while the rider's preference is for a two-year deal through to the end of 2021.
Trek's interest in Nibali dates back to 2015, when the squad was prepared to sign him in the event of Astana losing their WorldTour licence. Their pursuit intensified when Segafredo signed on as co-sponsor ahead of the 2016 season. They were among Nibali’s suitors when his contract with Astana expired that year, but they were unable to match the offer put forward by the nascent Bahrain-Merida team.
Segafredo owner Massimo Zanetti remains keen to secure Nibali's services and reportedly met with the rider in Treviso late last year. La Gazzetta reports that Segafredo is ready to offer the 34-year-old a long-term contract and a working relationship that would continue beyond his racing career, though any contract offer would also require the agreement of Trek and team manager Luca Guercilena.
Trek-Segafredo signed Richie Porte as their Grand Tour leader ahead of this season. The Australian has a two-year deal that ties him to the team through the end of 2020.
UAE Team Emirates have already indicated their interest in signing Nibali for 2020 should he fail to reach an agreement with Bahrain-Merida. Giuseppe Saronni, who steps back to a role on the UAE Team Emirates board in 2019, confirmed the news at the weekend, though he noted that Segafredo were a front-runner.
"The sponsor most interested in Nibali is Segafredo, and that’s normal because they’re Italian and they were close to reaching a deal in the past," Saronni told La Gazzetta.
"That’s because they're both Italian, for them it'd be about more than just the racing. Who wouldn't like Vincenzo in their team? He’s very interesting to us too, there has been some contact and offers…"
Nibali begins his 2019 season at the UAE Tour next month, and has already confirmed that he will ride both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year.
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