Derby owner Mel Morris has admitted his club will face a “tough time” should manager Frank Lampard leave to join Chelsea.
The Rams are hoping for a swift conclusion to discussions after granting the Blues permission to speak to the 41-year-old.
Lampard, Chelsea’s record goalscorer following a glittering playing career at Stamford Bridge, has been strongly linked with the job since Maurizio Sarri left his role as boss on June 16 to take over at Italian champions Juventus.
Morris revealed he discussed this possibility with Lampard upon offering the former England midfielder his first managerial job last summer, and he has “no regrets” about letting Lampard hear what Chelsea have to say.
“We’re going to have a tough time ahead if Frank goes. If he’d done a bad job at Derby this season then this wouldn’t be happening,” Morris told Talksport.
“When Frank met me for the first time we spoke about this opportunity and we knew that somewhere down the line it would happen, although we thought it would be some way off.
“You don’t have to give permission but we talked about this eventuality. Lets be honest, the Chelsea job comes around pretty frequently, and it was always going to be there for Frank, we just didn’t think it’d be after one season.
“It’s impossible in a situation like this. The last thing you want is, if someone has a desire to go, them looking over their shoulder. I have a great relationship with Frank – and Chelsea – and this will continue.
“I would have been more critical if it was a lower half Premier League club but this is one of the top jobs in football and we have to respect that. It’s a huge decision for Frank and a huge decision for Chelsea and I have no regrets, however this works out.”
Lampard impressed during his first season in management at Derby by guiding the Rams to the brink of promotion and the Championship play-off final – losing 2-1 to Aston Villa at Wembley last month.
Morris has not given up hope that Lampard will remain at Pride Park, saying: “After the play-off final my belief was Frank would still be with us this season, and I hope that is still the case.
“I’m hoping he will manage us next season and I’m not giving up hope on that but it will happen at some point in the future that Frank goes to Chelsea, I just hope it’s not now.”
Derby granted Chelsea permission to speak to Lampard less than 24 hours ago and Morris said that “more than a fair number” of agents had called since, revealing that he had already received around 12 applications for the job.
Asked what he would be looking for in a new manager, should he lose Lampard, Morris replied: “Someone who will embrace the academy – like Frank has – and have a relationship and connection with the fans. And there’s an expectation at the club that we have to play football a certain way.”