UAE Team Emirates have shown an interest in trying to sign Deceuninck-QuickStep's João Almeida, the Portuguese rider's agent has confirmed, but the 22-year-old still has a year of his contract with his Belgian WorldTour team still to run.
"There is interest from UAE Team Emirates, and other teams on the WorldTour, but the fact is that João Almeida has another year left on his contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep," Almeida's agent at the Corso sports agency, former pro João Correira, told Portuguese newspaper A Bola on Wednesday.
Almeida joined Deceuninck-QuickStep this season from the Axel Merckx-run US under-23 team Hagens Berman Axeon, and showed glimpses of what he was going to be capable of this year with third overall at the Vuelta a Burgos behind teammate Remco Evenepoel and Bahrain McLaren's Mikel Landa in the summer.
He then finished second behind Astana's Aleksandr Vlasov at the one-day Giro dell'Emilia in mid-August ahead of being part of the winning Decuninck-QuickStep squad that won the opening team time trial stage at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartoli, where he went on to take third overall.
In October, Almeida then started the rescheduled Giro d'Italia and immediately took second place on the opening-stage time trial behind TT world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), and then took the race lead two days later on Mount Etna.
With no defined leader in the absence of the injured Evenepoel, Almeida assumed the role for Deceuninck-QuickStep, and rode brilliantly with his teammates' support to keep the pink jersey all the way until stage 18 to Laghi di Cancano, where he was divested of it by Sunweb's Wilco Keldermann, and dropped to fifth overall.
However, a strong ride on the penultimate stage to Sestrière, where Almeida took fourth place behind stage winner and eventual Giro winner Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), kept him in the hunt for the podium, and fourth place on the final-stage time trial in Milan saw him secure fourth place overall – and the attention and interest of a number of teams.
"UAE Team Emirates' main sports director, Joxean Matxin, knows João's skills well, but one thing is to know and like them, while it's another thing to come up with a proposal," Correia said.
"The way we work at the Corso sports agency is known by the teams, and there is a lot of talk, but without concrete proposals, it's all mere assumptions," he said of the agency he founded along with Ken Sommer, and which is home to a number of other riders, including Giro winner Geoghegan Hart, 2019 road race champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and time-trial specialist Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates).
Under current UCI rules, all parties have to agree to a move when riders are still under contract.