Roberto Di Matteo has admitted there is a real danger of Chelsea allowing Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard to leave against his wishes.
Di Matteo acknowledged there was an increasing risk of two of the Blues' all-time greats effectively quitting Stamford Bridge in January, with no sign of either agreeing a new deal with the club. Reports suggest billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is refusing to offer either of the 30-somethings more than a one-year contract.
Asked if he was worried about what could happen in January, Di Matteo said: "Yeah, but that's the world of football. That's how you live in this world, in this industry. We had the same last season with some players and, at the end of the day, we all have to be professional and try to do our best, even though maybe the contract is not sorted out."
There would be no shortage of suitors for Cole, who has arguably been the world's best left-back for most of the decade, and has previously been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Paris St Germain.
The former Arsenal star is reportedly even refusing to rule out a second high-profile defection by joining Manchester United, who have long been in the market for a new left-back. Lampard, meanwhile, is on the radar of Major League Soccer, as a possible big-name replacement for David Beckham.
Di Matteo wants Cole and Lampard, who are free to sign pre-contract agreements with rival clubs in January, to stay and has repeatedly insisted they have many more years at the top.
Chelsea failed to reach agreements with Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou over contract extensions last season and watched both quit the club in the summer.
Di Matteo was opposed to a blanket ban on offering players over 30 anything longer than a one-year deal, saying: "You would have to look at it individually, every player, depending on the history and the physical condition of every player."
And he had no doubt Cole fit the bill, hailing the defender as "absolutely", "certainly" and "no doubt" one of the best left-backs around. He added: "He's a fit boy. He can play every game, so he still has many years in front of him."
Meanwhile, Di Matteo confirmed John Obi Mikel was in talks over a new contract, amid reports the midfielder would be offered a five-year deal.