Wayne Rooney admits Derby are facing a “big 24 hours” for the future of the club after the Sky Bet Championship season ended with a 1-0 home defeat to Cardiff.
American businessman Chris Kirchner is moving close to a takeover but the ownership of Pride Park, which belongs to former owner Mel Morris, remains a stumbling block.
On the field Derby dominated but could not find a way past Dillon Phillips, who kept Cardiff in the game with a string of excellent saves.
He denied Liam Thompson before clawing out a Tom Lawrence drive that was heading for the top corner and then blocked a Louie Sibley shot at the back post.
Cardiff improved after the break and they struck the decisive blow in the 55th minute when Eli King set up Jordan Hugill to beat Ryan Allsop from six yards.
Derby pressed hard but could not find a telling finish with Ravel Morrison twice firing over before Phillips denied Curtis Davies in stoppage time.
After the game, Rooney’s attention moved to the future of the club he tried to save from relegation despite a points deduction for entering administration.
The Derby boss said: “I know Chris (Kirchner) has done everything, I was with him until 2:30am this morning in meetings exploring every possibility. He’s put a lot of time and effort into trying to acquire the club and the stadium is the last piece, everything else is done.
“I know there are meetings going on now, so hopefully that will be positive and we can all look forward to an exciting summer with players coming in, players re-signing contracts and the start of this club trying to move forward.
“On the other hand, if it doesn’t happen I’m really concerned for the club so I think it’s a big 24 hours.
“There has been an awful lot of work from the council, from Chris and his team and myself to try and make sure this does happen but ultimately it’s out of our hands.
“Talks are ongoing now and this club has to move forward, it has to. It would be such a shame and a loss to football if it doesn’t.”
Derby City Council is trying to find a solution to the problem of the stadium ownership and Rooney had this message for Morris: “I hope he’s watched the game and what the lads have tried to achieve this season, let us rebuild the club.”
Cardiff manager Steve Morison said: “It was excellent. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of the ball, they are a really good team and, very much like the game we had at our place, we set up the same way.
“We frustrated them first half, didn’t really give them any clear-cut chances and we knew we could grow into the game. I picked a team that allowed us to make changes and positive changes to win the game when needed.
“The lads have shown how much it meant to them when people have questioned about whether they care or not and we saw right at the death when Dill (Dillon Phillips) saves the ball and everyone goes to congratulate him because it does mean something and it does hurt when we lose.”