Villas-Boas denies Lampard trouble
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas today said he and Frank Lampard enjoy a "fantastic" relationship and dismissed any suggestion otherwise.
Villas-Boas' handling of Lampard has been one of the biggest talking points of his reign at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues boss having no qualms dropping the player, who was once previously untouchable.
Lampard has refused to bite his tongue over his unhappiness at being in and out of the side, but Villas-Boas rejected any suggestion Lampard could be sold this month. "Frank is a player who is not available at any price," Villas-Boas said, before justifying his handling of the 33-year-old. "First, he's not in and out in rotation. There is no such thing.
"We decide on an XI who are strong for any game and that can help us in the strategy to win the game. Every player wants to find that consistency and playing times. Frank, with the player he is and the history he represents, wants to be involved all the time, but every player is competing for a place.
"I've said the same all season, even when Frank had more playing time and others didn't. Everyone is fighting to be in it, and a player of Frank's level has a shorter distance to travel to be in the team than others."
Lampard has been dropped for all of Chelsea's big games recently, but Villas-Boas insisted this did not mean his powers were on the wane. "Players have different characteristics and your strategy depends on how you want to play the game," he said.
"Other players might be better placed in certain games, or players might be in better form than others. We try different options at times, but Frank is the fifth or sixth most used player at Chelsea so he's involved all the time. "We are speaking of two players ahead of him. One is a goalkeeper and the other is John Terry."
Like Terry, Lampard enjoys a favourable status among Chelsea supporters, but Villas-Boas insisted no player had a given right to be picked forever.
"What the fans demand is instant success, and success in terms of trophies," Villas-Boas said. "Liverpool have been wanting to get back to Premier League winning ways for some time and they don't have Ian Rush and [Kenny] Dalglish and Alan Hansen playing."
Part of Lampard's frustration stems from the knowledge the clock is ticking on his playing career. Villas-Boas refused to put a timescale on the midfielder's eventual departure, suggesting the player himself would know when the time was right.
"You have to respect players of this magnitude who have reached lots of success," he said. "Players know more or less what the competition is around them and make the necessary judgments to see who is overtaking them. An up front relationship would see them inform the manager and we would make the best decision possible."