Frank Lampard will head into Derby’s Championship play-off final with his future in doubt, as Chelsea consider an official approach for their former captain.
Lampard is emerging as the leading contender to replace Maurizio Sarri if Chelsea part company with the Italian, and he has revealed he will hold talks with Derby owner Mel Morris after the final against Aston Villa.
The 40-year-old has performed admirably in his first season as a manager, guiding Derby to a sixth-placed finish, but could face the break-up of his squad this summer if they lose on Monday.
Loan stars Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Harry Wilson and Andy King will return to their parent clubs while five key players are out of contract at the end of this season. Jayden Bogle, the highly regarded right-back, could also be sold with Burnley and Brighton understood to be keen.
Lampard insists his total focus is on beating Villa at Wembley but the prospect of him returning to Chelsea, where he spent 13 years as a player, will not go away.
“I understand the link but in terms of how I'm seeing it, I don't want to think about it, I don't want to talk about it. I want to talk about Monday, I want to work with the team, I want to get this over the line for us,” he said.
“I'll say straight away to the Derby fans, my focus all year has been how well I can do in this job, because this club gave me an opportunity. And I want to finish this season as well as I can.
“That's why my focus is so much on this game, and I'm thankful for that opportunity. I've got two years left on my contract here and I see no further than Monday.
“I will sit down with Mel after the game, which was planned before all this talk anyway, to see firstly what the result was on Monday, because that's going to be defining how we chat and to see where the club goes forward. It's as simple as that.”
Lampard has admitted the talks with Morris will be vitally important for Derby’s future direction, with promotion to the Premier League likely to earn the club around £170million.
However, Morris would undoubtedly move to lower the club’s cost base in the event of another season in the Championship.
“Contracts are running out for some players, some naturally. [With] the loan players, we have to think we are going to lose them all so the squad is low in numbers,” said Lampard.
“So the talks are crucial because we know that the club is in a different position to what it was in years before. Of course, promotion would change that.
“I just want to talk very openly about it, so I want to know where we are at and the quicker we know that the better because there's work to be done either way.”
Derby secured their place in the final with a memorable win over Leeds, and Lampard insists beating Villa would rank highly alongside his achievements as a player.
During his time at Chelsea he lifted three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League.
“It will be right at the top. I’m not putting it over the Champions League [beating Bayern Munich in 2012] because for me as a player, personally, the way that felt was incredible.
“But for being a manager, with a different input, and the responsibilities that you have, and working so closely with really good people here, it will be something that goes right up towards that.”