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Ducati: Retaining Stoner is priority

Casey StonerDucati boss Claudio Domenicali believes his team should prioritise retaining Casey Stoner over chasing a deal with Valentino Rossi.

Rossi has been linked with a switch to Ducati for 2011, especially after he intimated that Yamaha could not continue giving him and Jorge Lorenzo equal status and should nominate a clear number one.

But at the launch of Ducati's 2010 contender, Domenicali insisted that the team was not considering changing its current line-up of Stoner and Nicky Hayden - especially as he reckons Stoner is the championship's greatest talent.

"I think that Casey is talent-wise the strongest rider in the world," said Domenicali. "Nicky gave us a wonderful lesson on life and management. Our motto is 'never give up' and Nicky taught us once again that we must never give up, so to think about something different with such a team is not appropriate.

"However it is true that our agreements are going to expire mid-season. So between my will and what is going to happen, there may be some differences.

"If it's possible to hold on to Casey or to take Valentino, then the answer is simple: we can try. To ask a manager publicly what they would like to do is a bit embarrassing. For me if it's a choice between one or the other, personally I have no doubt that we have the rider with the highest talent, so for me the priority is to hold on to Casey.

"But since the answer cannot stop here, could Casey and Valentino go well together? You would have to ask them. It's like asking a [football] manager would they like to have Maradona and Platini in the same team, of course, why not, we would like to, but then if the wedding is successful or not, we don't know. But the team has two strong riders and we would like this to continue, that's quite clear."

Domenicali denied that Stoner's mid-season illness in 2009 had given Ducati cause to doubt him.

"One would have to be mad to have doubts about Casey's skills," he said.

"It was an extremely complicated year for him. He did not understand how to solve his physical problem, and we did not understand how we could help him.

"We had never found ourselves in a similar situation - I've been working at Ducati since 1991 and managing races since '94, so I do have a bit of experience. I've never found myself in a similar situation. As usual when you're dealing with something for the first time it's more difficult to immediately find the right approach to be able to solve it.

"What is important at the end of this is that today Casey is with us and is perhaps in the best shape that we have ever seen him."

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