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 has admitted he sought assurances from Guardiola over his long-term plans before his move from Arsenal last season. He said: "Before I came here I spoke with him a lot and I remember saying to him: 'Pep, I hope you stay here for many years'. He put my mind at rest but he said that Barça would always be Barça. That is true, but it is clear that a Barça with Guardiola is always going to be better than a Barça 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 current one-year deal, which runs out on 30 June.
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 very young and it is incredible what he has already achieved. He will not be here for ever."
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 is the man who has 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. If he has not done so it is because we are in a key moment of the season."
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 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.