Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas today vowed to help Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres get back to their best after each had an international break to forget.
Lampard was dropped for a competitive England match for the first time in four years when he was left out of the starting XI for Friday night’s European Championship qualifier in Bulgaria.
And Torres’ career arguably hit a new low two days ago when he did not even make the bench for Spain’s thrashing of Liechtenstein.
Lampard was recalled by Capello for Tuesday’s Wembley win over Wales, although his performance did little to suggest his best days were not behind him.
The 33-year-old insisted afterwards he would continue to fight for his place and Villas-Boas is confident Lampard has plenty more to give at international level.
“This is one of the top players in England and in the Premier League,” said Villas-Boas, who revealed he had no intention of speaking to the midfielder about his axing.
“I saw through Frank’s interview that he made himself available and he wants to keep performing club-wise to be performing for the national team.
“He has this kind of challenge to himself and I think all the top players have it, and I think he’s up there with the best.”
Torres’ miserable 2011 continued during the international break, the £50m man having now scored just once in 27 games for club and country.
Villas-Boas said: “Fernando is here to be successful domestically and internationally.
“One of our main focuses, I think, is getting the best out of the players.
“We try to free them to exploit their talent and we hope to do it with all of them.”
Villas-Boas refused to criticise England manager Fabio Capello or Spain counterpart Vicente Del Bosque, both of whom confirmed they had picked their sides on form.
“I don’t phone the other managers to tell them, ’What are you doing?’,” said Villas-Boas.
“When they (Chelsea’s players) go back to their national team, they push to be selected and they push to be the best.
“They just have to compete with the best, end of story.
“The manager has to make choices on what he feels is best for the team.
“That’s what I think Capello did, and that’s what Del Bosque did, and that’s what everybody does.”
Despite his goal drought, Villas-Boas has persisted with Torres, the 26-year-old having started the opening three games of the season.
But the longer his travails continue, the more he will become compared to Andriy Shevchenko, who by common consent flopped at Stamford Bridge.
Villas-Boas, who was a scout under Jose Mourinho when Shevchenko signed, disagreed.
“I think Sheva went through a fantastic period of trophies at Chelsea,” he said of the striker, who won the Carling Cup and also played a part in Chelsea’s run to a successful FA Cup final.
“(He was) maybe not as successful as when he was at AC Milan in terms of European titles but successful domestically.”
Torres may soon be out of excuses, with Chelsea having recruited the kind of players during the transfer window that should get the best out of him.
They included fellow Spaniards Juan Mata and Oriol Romeu but Villas-Boas played down the impact Torres’ compatriots might have on his game.
“They’re people that Fernando knows and knows from going to the national team with Mata,” he said.
“It’s just friendship and social behaviour outside the pitch.
“They’re things that are not related to football performances on the pitch.
“So I wouldn’t say that he would benefit or not from that situation.”
Another player who might have benefited Torres was Luka Modric, who Chelsea failed to sign last month, despite offering Tottenham a deal reportedly worth £40m.
Villas-Boas claimed he was unlikely to go back for Modric or Porto wing-back Alvaro Pereira when the window reopens in January.
Whatever happens, Torres will have to make do for the next three months.
He knows, at least, he is likely to start the next two games after Drogba was ruled out of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Sunderland and Tuesday night’s Champions League opener against Bayer Leverkusen.