Roberto Di Matteo has insisted he wants Frank Lampard to see out his career with Chelsea despite rationing the midfielder's game time.
Lampard looks certain to play from the off in tonight's Champions League clash against Nordsjaelland in Denmark after failing to start the Blues' last three matches. His omission for those games has fuelled speculation about whether the final year of the 34-year-old's current contract will herald the end of his glittering Stamford Bridge career.
But manager Di Matteo said: "Frank is still a key player and very important for us. He's been so successful with this club and I hope he stays for the rest of his career with us."
He added: "Frank is an intelligent man and I have a very good relationship with him. We talk and, as much as nobody likes to be on the bench and being disappointed at not playing, I hope he understands. His attitude has shown he supports the team and that's very important."
Communication and a winning run are the two main reasons why Lampard appears to have reluctantly accepted his lot under Di Matteo, having fallen out with the Italian's predecessor Andre Villas-Boas.
Di Matteo said: "We had conversations at the back end of last season, given the amount of games that we were playing, and I tried to get the best out of him by not playing him in all the games, just to make sure he could be ready for the matches he did play.
"This year, it looks the same. We have so many games to play and playing every three days is difficult for any player. It's just like that.
"I have been trying to do it with everybody but it's been a question of where we have options and making sure we always have energetic and dynamic performances. It's done on a game-by-game basis, always looking at the balance of the team."
Lampard has been exposed by top-class opponents playing in a midfield anchorman role, but Nordsjaelland are unlikely to overrun him and whoever he plays alongside.
The England midfielder seems certain to play an increasingly limited role in big matches thanks to the ascendancy of the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar.
- Roberto Di Matteo
- Frank Lampard