Bradley Wiggins is conflicted about the arrival of super-agent Jorge Mendes into cycling but says he can understand why he is chasing a bumper contract for his client Joao Almeida.
News broke on Sunday that Almeida would leave Deceuninck–QuickStep at the end of the season, along with Sam Bennett, after contract talks failed.
Deceuninck boss Patrick Lefevere said the 22-year-old's manager had shown "relatively little respect in the negotiation", although he did not directly name Mendes.
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Mendes has a host of football stars on his roster including Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.
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With rumours that Peter Sagan could be about to swap Bora-Hansgrohe for Deceuninck, Wiggins admits it is only natural that Mendes would look out for his man.
“He’s waded in and obviously wants money now,” Wiggins said on his latest podcast, which is available to listen and download now on all major platforms.
With all these talks about Sagan maybe coming to the team, he probably has to get in early and say ‘what about my guy next year’... And they will start looking elsewhere.
“The later you leave it in the year, fewer people have money. So the negotiations start earlier and earlier.
“You want it for your security and your peace of mind, so you can concentrate on your bike riding. Contract things are the worst things to be going on.”
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Almeida is one of the most exciting prospects in cycling after his breakthrough ride at the Giro d’Italia last year, where he held the maglia rosa into the final week before cracking in the mountains.
He is joint-leader for Deceuninck in Italy this time around, alongside the returning Remco Evenepoel, with the pair tied fourth in GC and 20 seconds adrift of leader Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers).
“It’s not something you want to have lingering out there,” added Sean Kelly on the contracts discussion.
“Of course, if Almeida has made an agreement and it’s been announced now, that’s not a problem as he knows where he’s going.
“But if you have to wait until August, and you’re still negotiating, then the opportunities are much less. And the amount of money available is also less.”
Groupama-FDJ directeur sportif Marc Madiot, a two-time winner at Paris-Roubaix, has previously slammed Mendes’ move into cycling.
“If Mendes is Almeida’s agent, then Almeida will never come to my team,” Madiot told RMC in January.
“I don’t want the football system. The system of agents in football, what’s that? It’s having a portfolio of players and making them move as often as possible in order to go to the bank as often as possible.
“They gamble in an expanding financial bubble. Where is football right now with that financial bubble, with everything that’s going on at the moment with Covid?
“They are staring into the abyss. And we want to let people like Mendes into cycling? I don’t want Mendes in cycling. He can stay in Portugal with his footballers."
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Wiggins said that the ruthless nature of football negotiations would be dangerous if adopted by cycling, with riders often returning to previous teams and the same faces cropping up in different places.
“Cycling is a small world. What goes around comes around,” said Wiggins.
“Look at Mark Cavendish, he’s gone back to QuickStep now. He’s kept a good relationship with Patrick Lefevere and when it was looking like Mark didn’t have a team at the end of last year, Patrick stepped in and gave him a spot.
“You reap what you sow in cycling. You’ve got to keep good relationships because you never know where someone is going to end up.
“One minute they could be a team manager or mechanic, and the next minute they could be a DS at another team, or next day they could be the president of the UCI! You just don’t know.”
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