Rafael Benitez told Frank Lampard it was up to him to prove Chelsea wrong over their decision not to offer him a new contract.
England midfielder Lampard last week appeared resigned to leaving Stamford Bridge when his current deal expires at the end of the season.
But the 34-year-old still has it within his power to make himself indispensable to the club where he has become a legend during 11-and-a-half glorious years.
Interim manager Benitez said: "The best way to do things is to perform on the pitch.
"For a player, it's easier even than for a manager.
"For a manager, it depends on other people.
"For a player, you can go there and show everyone that you are the best and it will be easier, any conversation."
He added: "All of us are professional, we try to do our best, and after see what happens.
"But the answer is to be even better on the pitch."
Lampard's bid to do just that has been seriously hampered by injury in 2012 but he has started Chelsea's last two matches and looks set for a regular spot in the side as captain, including Sunday's Barclays Premier League game with Aston Villa.
Benitez said: "He's an important player for us.
"He's a good player, he has quality, experience, he can help the team in the build-up, and he can help the team scoring goals."
And, despite his contract saga, he is fully motivated to do so, according to Benitez.
"I can see him working very hard in the training session, and working hard during the games," Benitez said.
"So, I don't see any difference."
Proof of this came in Lampard's reaction to not starting Chelsea's Club World Cup semi-final against Monterrey last week.
"He wanted to play from the beginning in the first game and he was not quite happy," Benitez said.
"My job is trying to bring the best out of each player.
"So I will try to bring the best from him against Aston Villa, against Norwich and every game."
That is just about the limit of Benitez's influence and he admitted it would be "easier" if he had more of a say on comings and goings.
But he added: "In this case, I knew what was going on."
Benitez refused to be drawn on reports a fee had been agreed with Liverpool for Daniel Sturridge, confirming only the England forward was fit again after a hamstring injury.
But would he pick a player who is unlikely to still be at the club next month?
"It depends on the player, it depends on the situation," Benitez said.
"But the main thing is you have to be convinced that the player will give 100%. At training, he was very, very good."
Benitez also played down fears John Terry's protracted recovery from knee surgery was a major cause for concern, saying: "We know it's an inflammation and it's a question of time that it goes down."