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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Lampard's agent casts fresh doubt over future

The future of Chelsea's England midfielder Frank Lampard has come under the spotlight yet again after his agent refused to say whether the player would be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Lampard has two years remaining on his contract with the English champions but there has been renewed speculation that he will leave the club at the end of the season and join Barcelona.

The midfielder is a long-time target for the Spanish giants and although Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon recently claimed the player was close to signing an extension to his contract, that suggestion was quickly denied by Lampard's agent Steve Kutner.

Now Kutner has heightened tensions further by claiming nothing has been decided as far as next season is concerned.

Kutner told Radio Barcelona's La Graderia show: 'Frank Lampard is a Chelsea player until the end of the season. From then, we have not decided anything yet. Who knows what can happen?

'Right now he is concentrating on one thing and that is playing for Chelsea. It's still too early to say where he will go if he leaves the club.'

Lampard, 28, has a Spanish partner and that has fuelled speculation that Barcelona would be his destination should he opt to leave London.

Lampard's situation has been mirrored by the speculation surrounding Jose Mourinho's own future.

That is still unclear despite claims by the Portuguese coach that he wishes to see out the remainder of his contract at Stamford Bridge.

But rumours continue to persist that Mourinho will leave at the end of the season instead of staying until 2010.

Should Mourinho opt to move on, then that may well signal an exodus of players from Chelsea - including Lampard.

Chelsea take on Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge tomorrow intent on preserving an amazing unbeaten home run which has now extended itself to 57 games.

Chelsea were last beaten at home by Arsenal in February 2004 and during that period the Blues have won 45 and drawn 12 - scoring 121 goals and conceding just 26.

They will be boosted by the return of captain John Terry against their visitors but Mourinho has major injury concerns over left-back Wayne Bridge and midfielder Michael Ballack.

Both players collected thigh injuries while on duty with England and Germany respectively but Mourinho already has contingency plans in place.

Terry's return will free Michael Essien from his makeshift defensive role alongside Ricardo Carvalho and therefore Ballack's absence will not be felt as keenly as it would have been.

Mourinho may also have defender Khalid Boulahrouz fit again after knee ligament damage and if that is the case, he can deputise for Bridge.

Paulo Ferreira, normally a right-back, can also switch to left-back and so there is little to concern Blues as they look to keep up the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the Premiership.

Middlesbrough have yet to suffer defeat this year but they have not won at Stamford Bridge since a 2-1 success in March 1975.

Chelsea chances of increasing their unbeaten home run to 58 will largely depend on the form of top scorer Didier Drogba.

He has already scored 23 goals in all competitions for the Blues this season and is equal top with Ronaldo in the chase for the coveted `Golden Boot' award.

Drogba has been in exceptional form all season for Chelsea and the Ivorian ace insists he's never been better.

Drogba declared: 'This is the best form of my career. Every time I go on to the pitch I think I'll score.

'I have to believe for the whole game. It is easy to give up if things are not going well but I never give up.

'When I was playing in the second division in France, I always dreamed about becoming the best striker in the world. Now I am one of the best, it's amazing. It shows how much and how quickly I have improved.

'I want to win everything this season. I want to be one of the first ever players to win four major trophies.

'The Champions League is huge and if you win the Premiership you are the boss of England.'

Drogba's goal in a 1-0 friendly win over Guinea in midweek was his 17th for Ivory Coast while a Chelsea player.

That total makes the striker Chelsea's all-time international top scorer, moving clear of the 16 scored by England's Jimmy Greaves when he was at the club.

Now the Ivorian wants his goals to earn him another title winning medal and the 'Golden Boot'.

Drogba added: 'Of course I can win the Golden Boot. But as much as I'd love to be the top scorer, it would mean nothing if Chelsea don't win the league.'