Italy's Grand Tour star Fabio Aru, currently fourth in the Tour de France, will leave Astana at the end of the 2017 to become on of a number of riders to join UAE Team Emirates in 2018, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
Aru has agreed to a three-year deal that will keep him in the Arabian team through 2020. However in line with UCI rules, general manager Giuseppe Saronni cannot confirm the signing until August 1.
The deal will be worth around €3 million annually, according to Cycling Weekly's sources.
Saronni said "no comment" when asked of the news this morning. Of course, he needs a replacement for South African Louis Meintjes. The 25-year-old, currently eighth in the Tour, has reportedly singed a deal with home WorldTour team Dimension Data with Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings.
The Aru deal would beef up Saronni's new team, which abandoned the Lampre sponsorship over the winter for a last-minute deal with the United Arab Emirates and the airline giant Emirates.
Watch: Tour de France stage 17 highlights
Aru won a stage in the Tour de France and held the yellow jersey for two days so far this year. He also claimed two stages and second overall in the 2015 Giro d'Italia and of course, the 2015 Vuelta a España victory.
With Aru leaving, Astana must look elsewhere. They are due to welcome Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff, whose relationship with Katusha-Alpecin is on the rocks. It will also need a Grand Tour star.
Rigoberto Urán, currently second in the Tour, is top target for general manager Alexandre Vinokourov. The 30 year-old Colombian began racing in Italy and his fluent Italian is likely to help him fit in quickly at the team.
Frenchman Warren Barguil, winner of the Tour's stage to Foix and likely mountains classification victor, is also on Astana's radar for 2018.
Barguil is out of contract and if he is to have a chance to ride the Tour as leader, he may need to leave Team Sunweb who are likely to back Tom Dumoulin at the Tour in 2018..
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