Pique stretches deal to 14 years

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Sport -

LON­DON: Barcelona’s Spain de­fender Gerard Pique has signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion un­til 2022 which will take him be­yond his 35th birth­day, the Liga club said on Mon­day. “I am re­ally happy to be cel­e­brat­ing my ex­ten­sion be­cause this is my home and, since my re­turn, my de­sire has been to end my ca­reer here,” Pique, who would have served 14 years by the time the con­tract ends, said. – Reuters

The Ital­ian man­ager led the Blues to last sea­son’s league ti­tle in his first sea­son in charge, but he has been sur­rounded by spec­u­la­tion since the sum­mer, with re­ports of a split be­tween the club and coach over Chelsea’s trans­fer pol­icy.

“It is be­tween the man­ager and the board. We have no idea about that, we have no idea what’s go­ing on be­tween the lines,” the Eng­land cen­tre-back told reporters.

“I have ex­pe­ri­enced it a lot in my time here, but this has been a suc­cess­ful pe­riod. Chelsea is a suc­cess­ful foot­ball club and he is a top man­ager. We can’t have any im­pact.”

Third-placed Chelsea are 15 points be­hind run­away lead­ers Manch­ester City and Conte re­mains un­der pres­sure – but Cahill in­sists he still has the back­ing of all the play­ers.

“Of course we are 100% be­hind him. There is noth­ing be­tween the man­ager and play­ers what­so­ever,” he said.

“If Manch­ester City hadn’t done what they’ve done, the ti­tle would still be there to be won.

“This sea­son they’ve been fan­tas­tic, but we still aim to fight for sec­ond place. We have a big month com­ing up, let’s hope we come out at the end of that month in a pos­i­tive way.”

Cahill ad­mit­ted his side have found it tough to deal with their re­cent in­tense run of fix­tures, with Bournemouth’s visit their ninth game this month.

They were beaten by Arse­nal in the Carabao Cup semi­fi­nals last week but will host Hull City the FA Cup fifth round and await Barcelona in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League.

“The last cou­ple of months have been de­mand­ing, to say the least,” he said.

“Fe­bru­ary is a huge, mas­sive month for us. How­ever heavy it is, we are not go­ing to be able to change the fix­tures. We just need to find the op­por­tu­nity to rest, take that chance and be as fresh as we pos­si­bly can.”

Conte is hop­ing to wel­come back in­jured Al­varo Mo­rata, Thibaut Cour­tois and Cesc Fabre­gas to his fa­tigued side ahead of the visit of Bournemouth.

The Cherries are only three points above the drop zone but are un­beaten in five as they re­turn to the scene of one of their most fa­mous Pre­mier League re­sults, a 1-0 win in De­cem­ber 2015.

“I al­ways en­joy it, I like go­ing there,”

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