Branislav Ivanovic’s impressive goalscoring cameo in the FA Cup on Saturday may have been his last outing for Chelsea, with Antonio Conte offering little reassurance over his future at the club.
The Serbia international came off the bench to score the third goal against Brentford, before winning the penalty from which Michy Batshuayi completed a 4-0 fourth-round rout, with Willian and Pedro having also netted.
Ivanovic has enjoyed a successful nine-year spell at Stamford Bridge but has been heavily linked with a move to Zenit this month – and Conte appeared to pave the way for an imminent exit for a player he described as a “legend”, with goalkeeper Asmir Begovic potentially set for a similar fate.
“It is difficult to make a decision, but we must respect every decision for the players,” the Italian told beIN Sports.
“Ivanovic is a legend here. He has played a lot of games and won a lot. In this season he is not playing in the same way as the last few years. We must wait over these next three days and we will see.
Conte says Ivanovic must make the best decision for him. He is ready to accept whatever that is, as the player deserves much respect. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 28, 2017
“It is the same for Asmir. He is important for us. In his position we need to find the right substitution, otherwise he is happy to stay with us.”
Conte reflected on a job well done from his side on what was a comfortable afternoon against second-tier opposition, with a tougher test awaiting on Tuesday, when the Blues head to Liverpool.
“I am pleased and very happy for the commitment from my team,” he added, having seen his side wrap up a 10th consecutive home win in all competitions.
“It is important to see that all the players in the squad are involved in the project. It was important to go to the next round and to think about the next game at Liverpool – a tough game.”
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