Roberto Di Matteo has insisted Frank Lampard's Chelsea future was “very strong”, despite renewed speculation over whether the midfielder's glittering Stamford Bridge career might be drawing to a close.
Saturday's 2-1 Barclays Premier League win at Arsenal was the third successive match in which Lampard was not in the European champions' XI, with Ramires selected alongside John Obi Mikel in central midfield.
Lampard admittedly was injured for Tuesday's Carling Cup thrashing of Wolves, but his omission at the Emirates Stadium suggested the 34-year-old could start fewer big games during the final year of his current contract.
Chelsea have been left badly exposed by top-class opposition when Lampard has played an anchor role alongside Mikel this season and manager Di Matteo admitted after the Arsenal win that he deliberately picked two genuine holding players.
Running alongside all this is talk Lampard will not be offered anything longer than a one-year contract extension and that Los Angeles Galaxy are ready to make him Major League Soccer's latest big-name signing.
Lampard looks certain to return for tonight's Champions League game at FC Nordsjaelland and Di Matteo said: “His future is very strong at this club. He's a very important player for us. I've had conversations with him, yeah, which I do on a regular basis with the players. I like to exchange opinions.
“He's very supportive of the team when he's not in the team. When he's in the team, he's a great performer as well.
“From that point of view, we're fortunate to have a very strong squad with international players, so that's going forward with a busy schedule, it's important we use these players.”
Despite Saturday's admission, Di Matteo insisted Lampard could adapt from a box-to-box goalscoring midfielder to an anchorman.
He added: “He's been playing that role, but I don't think I've ever taken those other things away from him.
“Those are his strengths, but you sometimes need discipline in that role. It's important for the balance of the team. But he's played there magnificently at the beginning of this season and last season as well.”