The rider widely rated as cycling?s current number one, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, has received an offer from German squad T-Mobile for 2007. The 2006 ProTour winner and runner-up in the Tour of Spain could take over from Jan Ullrich – sacked from T-Mobile following his implication in Operacion Puerto – as their leader for the Tour de France and Ardennes Classics.
Despite official denials by the German team, T-Mobile?s offer has been confirmed by both Valverde?s current squad, Caisse D?Epargne and – according to Valverde?s team manager Eusebio Unzue – by the rider himself.
?Alejandro had told us that T-Mobile had been in touch and they had even turned up at his house [in Murcia, Spain] to discuss the deal.? Unzue said. He added that Caisse D?Epargne was currently negotiating with Valverde to renew his contract until 2010 and described the T-Mobile offer as a ?hostile and highly unscrupulous strategy.?
Whilst the amount of money T-Mobile have offered to Valverde is unclear, it can hardly be less than the 1.3 millions Valverde currently earns per annum. Should Valverde, who already has a contract with Caisse D?Epargne ending in 2007, opt to leave the Spanish team, then the ?get-out clause? specifies he would have to pay out two million euros.
The news could hardly have come at a worse time for Caisse D?Epargne. The team are currently negotiating with a sponsor from Valverde?s local region, 3 Molinos Resort , to take over as a second backer for the squad for 2007 – a deal that would almost certainly fall through if Valverde moved on at the last minute. Not only that, T-Mobile?s offer will also considerably increase Valverde?s market value even if he remains with Caisse D?Epargne.