Friday 24 November 2017

Barcelona stars fearful of life without Pep

Pete Jenson

Barcelona will never be the same again if Pep Guardiola walks away at the end of the season, according to Cesc Fabregas, whom the manager convinced to join the club just under a year ago.

Fabregas, who sought assurances from Guardiola over the manager's long-term plans before his move from Arsenal last season, said: "It is clear that Barca with Guardiola is always going to be better than a Barca without Guardiola. He made this team and he is the man that all the players believe in. We all want him in charge and nobody can really see anybody else doing his job."

Guardiola is stalling on signing an extension to his one-year deal, which runs out on June 30.

Asked if he felt the coach could end up in the Premier League, Fabregas said: "Why not? I am sure it's possible. He is young and he will not be here for ever. It is incredible what he has already achieved."

The 41-year-old Guardiola is questioning his ability to maintain the present level of professionalism and hunger in his players. Dani Alves hinted at that desperation when he admitted this week: "Guardiola told me recently that he did not want to see me for five days, for me to get away and disconnect. We will have to take a portion of the blame (if he goes).

"He had a lot of hair when he started and we have taken that. We are nothing without Guardiola.

"He put a smile back on the club's face. If he does not continue then the club will suffer a fall. I am sure he will renew his contract."

Barcelona's frail title hopes could get a boost tomorrow when Real Madrid face Spain's form team Rayo Vallecano. Any slip will allow the champions to close the 10-point gap at the top if they can beat Atletico Madrid.

In Italy, league leaders Milan face second-placed Juventus tonight. Massimo Allegri's side are without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic while unbeaten Juventus, a point behind Milan with a game in hand, welcome back Simone Pepe in midfield. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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