• Manager urges club to secure pair on longer deals
• Chelsea may make January move for Radamel Falcao
Roberto Di Matteo has urged the Chelsea hierarchy to extend the careers at Stamford Bridge of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, who will be able to sign pre-contract agreements with foreign clubs at the turn of the year.
The England pair will have entered the final six months of their current deals with the European champions when the transfer window reopens in six weeks, with each attracting interest from abroad. An official at the Chinese club Guizhou Renhe claimed this week that they had made contact with Lampard and his representatives and were keen to secure the player, perhaps as early as in January, while Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of reuniting Cole with Carlo Ancelotti at Parc des Princes.
No progress has been made to date in talks between Chelsea and the two players and it remains to be seen whether the length of any deal offered by a club continually seeking to reinvigorate its squad would be acceptable. "I think, for my part, I'm doing everything I can but ultimately it's between the player and the club to agree a new deal," said Di Matteo, who has consistently suggested he would be keen to retain Lampard and Cole beyond the end of the current season. "I have [told the club I want them to stay]. I'm not aware of where they are right now [in terms of the talks]. The players know I would like them to stay, from my point of view.
"They are fantastic players who have always performed to a high level for us, for myself too. I've told them that and I hope they will. With Lampard, if there's a willingness from both sides, he will remain with us. I don't know [for how long any deal would stretch]. That's for them to arrange. He's been a fantastic player for us over a decade, so it would be nice for him to finish his career here."
The process of regeneration is likely to continue in January with strong interest retained in the Atlético Madrid forward Radamel Falcao, whose hat-trick so scarred Chelsea in the SuperCup defeat by Atlético Madrid in August. The Colombian will be courted by a number of sides once the window opens, not least Manchester City, and any move for the 26-year-old would challenge the British record £50m Chelsea paid for Fernando Torres almost two years ago. "Falcao is one of the best strikers, probably, in European and world football," Di Matteo said. "His ratio of goals per game is quite impressive. Not just this season but over the last three years, at Porto and Atlético Madrid. If you ask any manager, he'd have him in his team."
Lampard will miss Saturday's awkward trip to West Bromwich Albion with a calf complaint. Though John Terry is also absent, he may miss only three weeks after straining the medial ligaments in his right knee during Sunday's draw with Liverpool. Cole is available again after a hamstring injury as Chelsea return to the venue where they lost 1-0 in March, a result that led to André Villas-Boas's dismissal 24 hours later. Di Matteo, a former West Brom manager, had been working as the Portuguese's assistant up to then and admitted he feared he would follow Villas-Boas out of the door on that tumultuous Sunday at the club's Cobham training base.
"In my heart? Yes, quite frankly, I did fear [the sack]," said Di Matteo, who had been summoned to speak with Roman Abramovich, Eugene Tenenbaum and Ron Gourlay in an office at the training ground. Instead, he was asked to oversee the side for the remainder of the season, with the revival he induced yielding the FA Cup and Champions League. "It was a very emotional day, that day, for all of us."