Frank Lampard has revealed that he considers Fulham loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek part of his long-term plans at Chelsea ahead of the west London derby this weekend.
Loftus-Cheek has earned plaudits for his recent displays at Chelsea's local rivals but he will be unable to line up for Scott Parker's team on Saturday due to the terms of his loan agreement.
Still, Lampard has been closely monitoring the development of the 24-year-old through reports from the loan department at Cobham Training Centre. Lampard has said that he is hoping to see Loftus-Cheek back at Chelsea next season.
"He played well [against Tottenham] and I was really pleased to see that because when Ruben was getting fit and was with us, I felt like we missed him last year. And when Ruben was getting fit, I was excited because I know the attributes he has and I wanted those attributes at the club," Lampard told reporters through Zoom.
"The conversations I had with Ruben earlier in the season were that he wasn’t feeling as sharp as he wanted to be on the back of a really bad injury which he had (a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in May 2019).
"Could he go and play games because he felt he needed games and maybe he could get regular games elsewhere.
"Seeing him play recently, I see him looking fit, fresh and strong. We know he’s an obvious talent so it’s great. If he can keep that up hopefully through the season and if he can get back to where he was and more then I’ll be very happy and he’ll come back as our player, for sure."
Lampard may not be set for a reunion with Loftus-Cheek but he will face off against his former England and Chelsea team-mate Parker in the managerial dugout.
Chelsea go into the match looking to improve on a run that has seen them win only one of their last six league games. Meanwhile, Fulham are aiming to escape the relegation zone after a draw away at Tottenham.
Lampard is relishing the chance to face off against his friend Parker on Saturday evening.
“We spent some time on holiday a few years ago," Lampard told reporters. “At the time he was working at Tottenham. It was pre-Fulham. But we were talking about our passion for our jobs and what we want to do.
"We were work friends for a while and we would have kept in touch a little bit outside of that but I think once our paths both started to go towards management, we have holidayed in the same destination a couple of times and had lunches together and a few drinks here and there so we are certainly close – as much as that goes.
“Scott shouldn’t be asking me for advice. We should have open talks. It would be a two-way street because we both have our different experiences.
“We message now and again. They’re a rival but at the same time when you have a friendship, it should override that off the pitch. I look forward to the challenge of going up against him because he is a gentleman of the game no doubt about it.
"The other thing with friends is when you’re driven in this game, you want to beat your friends maybe even more than sometimes you want to beat your enemies - I don’t know - but it doesn’t change anything in terms of how you approach the game.
"I’m sure Scott won’t mind me saying that and he’ll feel the same. At the end of the day it’s points for our teams that we both need at this moment. He is doing a great job, it is a pressure job because it’s going to be tough for them.
"We all have various expectations and at the moment the way he has his team playing he is doing fantastically well. I’m not surprised. I was delighted when he got them promoted last season."
Chelsea will enter the match at Craven Cottage in ninth place, sitting 10 points behind table-topping Manchester United.