José Mourinho has conceded he can no longer rely on Frank Lampard to be an ever-present at Chelsea, as he was in the Portuguese's first spell at the club, but the returning manager is confident the veteran midfielder will still play a significant role in the campaign ahead.
Lampard signed a new one-year contract at Stamford Bridge back in May and, as one of six players still at the club who worked under Mourinho last time around, is part of a core group of seasoned campaigners on whom the manager will rely as the team bid to regain the Premier League title. The 35-year-old has yet to feature in pre-season having been hampered by an achilles complaint and will sit out Thursday's game against an Indonesian All Stars XI.
The England international had excelled under Mourinho, his form prolific as a box-to-box midfielder and, having become the club's record goalscorer towards the end of last season, the manager will continue to tap in to his qualities. "The role doesn't have to change," said Mourinho. "What has to change is the way we analyse competition. Before we didn't analyse. Before it was: 'Every match, he plays.' Sometimes I wanted to give him a rest in a League Cup match and he would say: 'If you give me a rest, the next match I will not be the same because I have to play every three days.'
"In this moment we have just to analyse competition and make some choices, because I believe he is the same player, with the difference that he is 35 and the time [needed] to recover from match to match is not the same for a man of 35 to a man of 25. That's the only point. Now we have to analyse the fixtures, analyse the matches, analyse the week we have and to make a few choices."
Lampard featured in 50 of Chelsea's 69 games in all competitions last season, scoring 17 goals including 15 in the top flight. That tally of appearances was more than he had managed in each of the previous two years, when he had been affected by groin injuries, though both player and manager accept they must pick and choose his outings in the season ahead.
The midfielder will play a part in the development of Marco van Ginkel, recruited for £8m from Vitesse Arnhem and seen as the Englishman's natural successor, with Mourinho hoping to extract a similar influence out on the pitch as he once did from Claude Makelele during that first spell at the club.
"Frank can't play 60 matches like he did before, but the quality of the player and what he represents for the way I like to play football is exactly the same," said Mourinho. "He's intelligent, he's open, he has a very good relationship with me. He knows that I'm very experienced and he knows what I did, for example, with Makelele here in the last two years of Makelele [when the Frenchman played 87 times for the club as he approached his mid-30s]. He knows I know how to do it with players of his age, because at the end of the day we have to be just clever, because the player is the same."
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