Frank Lampard remains hopeful that Rio Ferdinand's England career has not come to an end despite the Manchester United defender having to withdraw from the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
Ferdinand, 34, has come under fire in the British media after pulling out of Roy Hodgson's squad due to the demands of his training programme, despite his persistent complaints that he was being overlooked by England over the last couple of years.
Despite this latest controversy, Lampard believes his former West Ham team-mate has what it takes to resume his England career in time for the World Cup finals next summer.
"He's a top-drawer player, Rio, certainly not finished," Lampard said. "You see his performances against Real Madrid (in the Champions League last-16 tie) - particularly away, where he was absolutely outstanding. I watched that on TV.
"He is a top performer. I don't know the ins and outs of his future, where it will go, but the way he is playing at the minute, he is certainly one of the top defenders in the Premier League."
On Ferdinand's withdrawal from the squad, Lampard added: "I was sorry for him and the team because he has been in fantastic form - sorry to lose a player of fantastic quality - but this is about the squad getting the results it needs. I know he is a very determined and professional lad, but I honestly don't know enough about his situation to say what might happen (in the future)."
However, Lampard has also endorsed Hodgson throughout the saga, believing the current England boss has been a "breath of fresh air".
"From the minute I first sat down with him at Chelsea when he came to meet a few of us there before the Euros, I found him a very personable bloke, very dedicated on the training ground, very driven, very pushed, very easy and friendly to talk to - in a good way," Lampard said.
"I have complete respect for him. With me, his communication has been fantastic."
Lampard, who is three months older than Ferdinand, says he can appreciate the issues the defender faces in terms of managing his fitness.
"When you get over 30 and more, you have to manage yourself differently," he said. "Train more, train less, rest periods - particularly the lads who have picked up injuries earlier in their career.
"I know Rio has been very disciplined in keeping on top of himself to make sure he gets the most out of his career, so a lot of respect for that. Every individual is different.
"I used to train harder as a kid and probably had the capacity to do so without feeling it would affect me in games. I used to do longer running. As you get older, you become aware of how to rest and maintain yourself. I don't think you can prolong yourself to the levels of someone like Ryan Giggs without getting past the 30 mark and looking at it from a slightly different angle."
Lampard is happy to place in his trust in the central defenders England have rather than worry about the ones they have lost.
"I believe in this squad,'' said Lampard. "We have been in these situations before in different positions but we have got depth in terms of the younger players coming into the squad. We have to believe in them. We have to make sure we are not upset in any one position.''
Meanwhile, James Milner has warned his team-mates to avoid the 'clever' antics likely to come into play in the vital qualifier against Group H leaders Montenegro next Tuesday.
It was in a Euro 2012 qualifier at Montenegro that Wayne Rooney was sent off for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic, with England throwing away a lead to draw that game 2-2, and Milner feels they will have to be more careful this time around.
"Montenegro away is the sort of game you want to be in," the Manchester City midfielder said. "We've been there before and it was a hostile atmosphere.
"When the crowd are close to the field, they are whistling every decision - that can affect the referee, maybe leaning towards their side. That's quite a natural thing to happen, so our discipline needs to be top notch.
"These teams are clever. They are going to use the atmosphere to their advantage. They are playing England, it is obviously a massive game for them, but we have to let our football do the talking."
Milner went on to suggest confidence is flowing in the England team after their friendly victory against Brazil last month.
"These next two games are big games for us," he added. "We've had a couple of results earlier in the campaign that we would like to have turned into wins, but we haven't. I think we are moving forward all the time and the last result against Brazil was a big result for us.
"Performances are improving as well, so that is obviously a positive sign. The squad is in a really good place at the moment and the longer we work with the manager, the more he will get his ideas across. You could see during Euro 2012 that we maybe we didn't retain the ball as well as we could have done and our forward play wasn't as good as it could be, but that is improving all the time."