Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink believes captain John Terry has the legs to play on beyond the end of his contract in six months’ time.
Terry turned 35 last month and his failure to match the performance levels he showed last season have called his Stamford Bridge future into question.
Chelsea only offer one-year extensions to players in their 30s and their senior centre back is yet to sign a contract that would take him beyond 2016.
But Hiddink, who confirmed there is no chance of him staying as coach beyond this campaign, believes Terry is still an important figure for the champions.
‘I must say he looks physically fit but what also is important when you’re halfway through the season is that he is fresh also in his mind. He’s very eager to play,’ the Dutch boss said.
‘One day, not now, the body will say: “Hey, slow down a bit”. I don’t see any of that
‘I’ve not been asked (about whether he should get a new deal) yet but those guys are very important for Chelsea. Very important.’
Talks are continuing about bringing legendary striker Didier Drogba back to Chelsea as part of Hiddink’s backroom staff.
The Montreal Impact forward is considering retirement to take a seat in the Stamford Bridge dugout, although no decision has been taken yet.
But while one of his former team-mates is looking at moving into coaching, Hiddink says that sort of talk would be premature for Terry.
‘They must give them the time (to develop as a coach),’ the veteran manager added. ‘But it is too early to say that for John.
‘Normally it depends a bit on the physical shape and the genes but most of the times when players come to 32, speed is dropping down and everything is slowing down.
‘There are exceptions, particularly of course in certain positions, but normally after 32 they drop down in their top physical abilities.’
Terry’s showings last season – in which he played every minute of Chelsea’s successful Barclays Premier League campaign – saw him labelled as a better player than his traditional peak years.
But he was dropped by Jose Mourinho as the champions stuttered this time around and the backline marshalled by Terry has not been quite as impregnable as it once was.
Chelsea welcome Scunthorpe United to Stamford Bridge on Sunday in the FA Cup third round.