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Jose Mourinho set to rescue Gerard Pique from Barcelona woes

Premier League leaders Chelsea (6/1 with Coral to win the Champions League) are supposedly set to sneak in and spoil Manchester United’s New Year plans by plucking defensive target Gerard Pique from Barcelona.

The Blues are believed to be searching for a long term replacement for 33-year-old skipper John Terry, with experience an important quality in Jose Mourinho’s criteria, to ease the expectations on young centre back pair Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen.

Mourinho already boasts an impressive rearguard, but the Portuguese coach is never content to stand still, and will have earmarked Barcelona-born Pique as an improvement on his current options.

Having watched the Spanish centre half from close quarters during his time in La Liga as boss of Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid, Mourinho will be well aware of what Pique can bring to his side.

Comfortable on the ball, the former Red Devils youth star, would help the Blues build from the back and reinforce the winning mentality Mourinho is instilling in his younger charges.

After luring Pique’s compatriot and former clubmate Cesc Fabregas to Stamford Bridge this summer, Chelsea will be feeling they have the edge in any Nou Camp negotiations.

Mourinho’s former mentor Louis van Gaal is now pulling the strings at Old Trafford, however, and the ex-Barca boss could still have a say in Pique’s possible destination.

The World Cup and three-time Champions League winning defender spent four years developing at Old Trafford, before returning to his boyhood club in 2008. Rumours have repeatedly linked Pique with a Nou Camp exit since new coach Luis Enrique’s arrival, however, and it appears the Spaniard would have his pick of Premier League clubs if moved on.

Speaking recently, though, the 27-year-old stated that he would rather stay put in Spain. Pique said: “I left a lot of friends there and was really happy there, even if I didn’t play as much as I wanted to.

“But I’ve always said I want to retire here and, if possible, stay here all my career.

“At this moment I’m not thinking about leaving, and I’m really happy if it’s true that United want me… but I want to stay.

“I’m a Barcelona fan, I have been since I was a kid, and I want to stay.”

Chelsea’s title winning aspirations and the Red Devils defensive issues could easily see the mooted £24m price tag met, however, and it will be up to Barca if they want to offload one of their own.

After defeating Shrewsbury Town last time out, Mourinho’s Blues are now available at 12/5 to lift the Capital One Cup.