Manager Wayne Rooney has said his entire Derby County squad have told him they want to remain with the financially troubled club, despite relegation to League One.
Derby have only five players contracted for next season, and are unable offer new deals because of restrictions while they are in administration.
“It is so rare and so unique and so positive that they all want to stay,” Rooney, 36, said.
“The players love being here.”
Since taking over as Rams boss on a permanent basis in January 2021, Rooney has not paid a fee to bring any player in – signing only free agents and loans.
Former Derby goalkeeper and coach Eric Steele previously said the reputation of Rooney, who he worked with at Manchester United, would be crucial to rebuilding the club.
Talking before Saturday’s home game against against Bristol City, Rooney said: “They [players] can see myself and my coaches are really developing them, not just into better football players but also better people, which is also important.”
The only first-team players on Derby’s books for their return to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1986 are midfielders Krystian Bielik, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and inexperienced forward Jack Stretton.
Contracts for all their defenders and goalkeepers expire in the summer.
However, goalkeeper Ryan Allsop and centre-back Richard Stearman have both said they want to stay with the Rams.
“Like most of the squad, I still want to be here,” said 34-year-old ex-Leicester City, Wolves and Sheffield United defender Stearman.
“There is a lot to get through for that to happen, the takeover has to be completed and between the manager and staff they need to decide who they want to hang around and then recruit a lot of players.”
Allsop added that he “hopes to get something sorted in the summer” with Derby.
“I’ve loved my time here and I don’t want that to end,” he continued.
The Rams’ and Rooney’s ability to piece together a side for next season, however, is dependent on the sale of the club.
American businessman Chris Kirchner was named preferred bidder earlier in April and his attempts to complete the takeover continue.
Rooney admits Derby “are not in a position” to counter any approaches made for the majority of his players who are out of contract – which includes captain Tom Lawrence.
“I can say 95% of the players in there I would want to keep, but what I can’t do is tell them what the salary will be,” Rooney said.
“The players who are out of contract, I know there are other clubs sniffing round them and putting salaries in front of them which unfortunately sometimes that is what it takes.”
Rooney also said Derby City Council “are trying to purchase” Pride Park from former Rams owner Mel Morris. The council would not comment on the claim.
Rams tax debt up to £36m
Meanwhile, joint administrators at Derby, Quantuma, have revealed that HM Revenue and Customs’ total claim for unpaid taxes has risen to £36m from £28m.
Quantuma also accumulated costs of £2.1m in the first six months of administration.
Figures in the administrators’ latest progress report, published on Companies House, also show that more than £950,000 has been spent on legal fees. Quantuma say the sum is “higher than anticipated” because of “protracted sale negotiations” and an appeal against the club’s points deduction.
Derby were also lent £3.5m in November by finance company MSD to allow them to fulfil their fixtures this season, taking the total amount owed to the American firm to £24m.
Over the period in question, Derby had a £2.76m trading deficit, although this would have been worse without money received from MSD. Wages during that time were £5.95m.