The Chelsea midfielder has had to face up to a likely reduced role in the Europa League final against Benfica
Frank Lampard knows there are problems with his comparison between himself and Didier Drogba. This time last year Drogba scored in the Champions League final before converting the shootout penalty that gave Chelsea the greatest victory in their history with what was to be his last kick for the club.
Lampard draws inspiration from that even though he admits that Wednesday's Europa League final against Benfica cannot possibly confer the glory of last season's win in Munich. What is more, it will be difficult to emulate the Ivorian's outstanding performance from the bench, which is where Lampard is likely to start. Still, at least the uncertainty surrounding his future is similar to his old team-mate's predicament.
"Didier handled himself fantastically all last season," says Lampard. "He didn't talk about [his contract], no one knew his plans until after the match and he did his stuff and left as an absolute legend as he should have done."
So has Lampard been making plans that he will reveal in the aftermath of another European final, or perhaps following next Sunday's Premier League conclusion against Everton at Stamford Bridge? "Not particularly, no. Kind of." Is he going to get a new contract or are these really the last days of his 12-year stint as a Chelsea player? "I don't want to talk too much individually about my situation with these games to go," he replies.
"That would be wrong and it's actually not important in the big scheme of things. What's important is us getting the right results out of the games to qualify for the Champions League, which is the main importance for this club, and also to win in the final."
While Lampard acknowledges that winning "Europe's second competition" would not be as significant as qualifying for the top one, it still pains him that he may not feature prominently in Amsterdam, as Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar are the clear first-choices in attacking midfield and the interim manager, Rafael Benitez, appears to prefer David Luiz, Ramires or Jon Mikel Obi in the deeper positions. Last season Lampard went into the Champions League final as captain, so going into the Europa League showdown suspecting that a meaningful cameo role is the best he can hope for has taken some mental readjustment. "You have to be professional about it and work hard in training, it's a different mindset."
Indeed, getting his head around the fact that the club's main remaining priority for the season is a top-four finish has also been disconcerting. "I don't like fighting for the top four," says Lampard who on Saturday beat Bobby Tambling's record with his 203rd Chelsea goal after second-half strikes against Aston Villa. "That's no disrespect but I'm so used to fighting for top one or two and I loved that mentality we had for a good few years where second was a disappointing season. I don't like the idea of fourth being a celebration in a way. The competition does get harder and teams get harder, but I'd love us to be up there again fighting to win leagues."
A man who counts three Premier League titles among the 10 major honours that he has won at Chelsea is in a good position to know how close the club is to getting back to winning leagues. "Not far at all," he says. "We've got a great squad, great individual players. It's just a case of next year coming in with a mentality from pre-season where the club's going to go 'right, we've got these players, we're going to get the balance right, we're going to work hard and we're going to make a challenge to go and win the league'. One thing we've lacked in the last two or three years has been consistency league-wise. That's what we need to get back."
When he talks like that, it sounds as if Lampard fancies there is still a chance of securing a new deal this summer even though he will turn 35. But even if the man who made him Chelsea king returns to Stamford Bridge, he may not stay. "I have a great relationship with José [Mourinho] but whether that makes any difference is only something that will become clear at the end of the season."
If Chelsea do not keep him, he feels he could still serve for several seasons elsewhere and has been training to ensure longevity, adapting his routine to take account that the player who made a 164 consecutive Premier League appearances when he was in his prime has made fewer starts this season than at any time since joining Chelsea. "I'd love to do this for a few more years. I looked at Ryan Giggs when we played [Manchester United] last Sunday. He was as fit as a fiddle and had an aura around him. All the players there were looking up to him and he is the mark really … I adapt my training as I get a bit older … If I don't do extra bits I haven't got the edge in my game. Particularly when you do miss games, rotated in and out, if you don't do that then you can slip into a game and be more lethargic than if you were playing every game."
He is, then, ready for the next game and while the Europa League may not make for the dream farewell, losing it would be a nightmare. "You remember the finals you lose as much as the ones you win," he says. "Everyone's talking about Chelsea getting to a final and thinking we've almost done it but we know what a tough game's it's going to be. Celebrations are something to talk about after the event." Like contracts, perhaps.