Vincenzo Nibali is set for a reunion with Astana as he prepares for what could be the final season of his career.
The Italian had suggested he may retire at the end of 2021 after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
However, a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests the 36-year-old is set to prolong his career with a return to the Kazakhstan-based team.
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The Sicilian enjoyed the most successful years of his career with Astana between 2013 and 2016.
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He was twice the winner of his home Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, in 2013 and 2016, while he also triumphed at the 2014 Tour de France.
The report in La Gazzetta suggests there was also interest from Team BikeExchange in the veteran, but that his close ties with Astana, including compatriot and close colleague Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli, have tempted Nibali back to the team.
"There’s no signature on the contract but everything indicates that direction, unless something suddenly goes wrong," Nibali's agent, Johnny Carera, said.
Alexander Vinokourov has been confirmed as Astana's team manager for 2022 after the exit of part-owners and sponsors Premier Tech.
The team has taken just three World Tour stage or race victories, two of which came at the Tour of the Basque Country in April.
"I’ll be the team manager and I’m optimistic that with a new and more serene atmosphere in the team we can build a good team," Vinokourov told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Nibali? We’re close to a deal."
Uncertainty over the team's future while summer business was conducted means that Nibali may be the only high-profile arrival for 2022.
Aleksandr Vlasov is departing for Bora-Hansgrohe, while Jakob Fuglsang may also depart the Kazakh team.
Fuglsang has been linked with Cofidis though is unlikely to join the French team.
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Nibali united with younger brother Antonio at Trek-Segafredo after joining the team in 2020.
The elder Nibali has endured a disappointing season, finishing only 18th at the Giro d'Italia before departing the 2021 Tour de France early to prepare for a tilt at Olympic road race gold.
He finished well out of contention and in 53rd place in Tokyo.
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