Frank Lampard has emerged as a major doubt for England’s Euro 2012 campaign and faces a crucial scan today to determine whether he can travel with the squad.
The Chelsea midfielder suffered a thigh injury during a training session with England yesterday and there are concerns within the national team camp that the 33-year-old will be unfit for the tournament.
Should the worst fears be realised, England would be left reeling from the second withdrawal of an experienced midfielder this week, after Manchester City’s Gareth Barry was forced to pull out with an abdomen injury suffered during the 1-0 win over Norway.
Barry was replaced by Everton defender Phil Jagielka, and Lampard’s place would go to Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, on stand-by despite a mixed first campaign at Anfield after his summer move from Sunderland.
Although manager Roy Hodgson had to submit his final squad of 23 with UEFA on Tuesday, he is permitted to replace an injured player after that deadline.
If Lampard is ruled out by injury, it would be a cruel blow for a player who returned to favour at Chelsea under Roberto Di Matteo over the closing months of the season, winning the FA Cup and Champions League with the Blues.
Participating at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine was looking uncertain as Lampard became a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge under former manager Andre Villas-Boas.
But the change of manager transformed his fortunes, and Lampard has been looking forward to playing a key role for his country this summer.
Lampard, who turns 34 next month, said: “I did wonder if I was going to make it (the Euros) earlier in the season. I’m not silly. I wondered if I’d be out.
“I took nothing for granted at that stage and it just shows you how football can turn, not just for myself.
“A few in the squad might have been out of the picture a few months ago and now they are in the picture.
“I can only be thankful that I just kept going through those times.”
Speaking this week, prior to his injury, he added: “Is it the last chance with England? Possibly. One day it might be taken out of my hands, so it’s not an easy one to answer.
“I don’t see myself retiring or taking myself out of it in the near future, so I wouldn’t want to call it the last one necessarily.
“But I’m no fool and I know that age is a factor and, when you’re at the top international level, you don’t go on forever. Nobody does. I will take this as potentially one of my last chances.
“This year in the Champions League I had that same mindset. I didn’t think it was my last year, but you know that it won’t go on forever and it makes you appreciate it even more.”
England face Belgium at Wembley on Saturday, which means a sight of Eden Hazard ahead of an anticipated move by the young Lille midfielder to Chelsea.
Lampard is expecting “great things” of Hazard at Chelsea after receiving the seal of approval from Didier Drogba and Joe Cole.
Lampard said: “It’s a very exciting time for the club and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s about.
“Everyone I speak to says he is a very top player, a very top young player.
“If he can bring that youth and hunger and ability into our team, then he’ll be very welcome.”