Manuel Pellegrini has dropped the strongest hint yet that Manchester City would like Frank Lampard to extend his loan beyond December.
The former Chelsea midfielder is due to join New York City next month but has been unexpectedly influential at the Etihad - he was outstanding against Bayern Munich in midweek when Sergio Aguero's hat-trick stole the headlines - and City might now be reluctant to let him go.
"We are going to talk to all the parties and make a decision in December," Pellegrini said.
"If all parties agree then maybe we can keep him, but it could be that we want to keep him and Frank wants to go."
That seems unlikely, at least as long as City are still in the Champions League. If their European campaign ends with a group stage exit in Rome on December 10, Lampard might decide to take up his new challenge in America, but if City qualify for the knockout stages he is thought to be receptive to staying on.
"I thought my Champions League days were over but I really enjoyed playing against a top-class team," Lampard said after the victory over Bayern Munich. "Rome will be another tough game but if we can get through the group then you can recharge in the new year and it's always a bit different then."
Lampard has a good chance of playing in Rome because Yaya Toure will still be suspended, but though Pellegrini refuses to look any further ahead, it seems clear he will be exploring the possibility of extending the loan. "I speak to Frank every day and I have the impression that he is playing better every day," the City manager said. "I am certainly very happy with the loan so far."
City could move into second place behind Chelsea with a win at Southampton today, though Ronald Koeman's team are above them and Pellegrini is aware that any sort of slip will only add to the view that Jose Mourinho's team cannot be caught. "I don't know why there is such a perception," he said.
"I agree that if Chelsea continue as they have started and keep it up until the end of the season, they will win the title, but who knows whether that will happen? I know there is a gap to make up, but this time last year we were six points behind Arsenal and no one was talking about us.
"Everyone was saying Arsenal were going to win the league and in the end they finished fourth. That might not happen to Chelsea, if they only drop four points from their next four games they will most likely be champions, but I can't predict the future and I don't know how anyone else can."
As with Lampard, Pellegrini is also pleased with Aguero, a player he revealed he once tried to bring from Argentina to Villarreal, and a striker who will soon be attracting the interest of the game's biggest spenders if he continues the sort of form that turned the game around against Bayern. "Sergio is happy here and he has five or six more years on his contract," he said.
"He is still young  and he has at least five more years left where he is at his top level of performance.
"City is not a club that sells its best players. At this moment Sergio doesn't want to go and we don't want to sell him."
In 2003, Aguero broke a record set by Diego Maradona when he made his first appearance in Argentina's Primera Division, playing for Independiente aged 15 years and 35 days. Pellegrini was managing River Plate at the time and remembered him when he moved to Spain to following year.
"Everyone could see he would be a very good player because it was not normal to see someone so young playing so well," he said.
"I tried to buy him for Villarreal but I can't say we ever got close. Atletico Madrid were in before us and they had more money."
Southampton v Man City, live, Sky Sports 1, 1.30pm
Sunday Indo Sport