Antonio Conte respects Branislav Ivanovic’s decision to seek a move away from Chelsea, but would be sad to lose a Stamford Bridge “legend”.
Ivanovic played in the opening six Premier League matches of the season, but has not started a top-flight match since Conte made a pivotal switch to the 3-4-2-1 formation that has seen his side become the dominant force in the title race.
The 32-year-old Serbia captain has won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup, Champions League and Europa League since joining from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008, but is reportedly in advanced talks over a switch back to the Russian Premier League with Zenit.
“Honestly, I didn’t speak with the player about this decision. For sure we know that he is in talks with another club, but for now I know nothing and we will have to wait,” said Conte ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League trip to Liverpool.
“I think it is better to put this question to the player. Until now, no [he will not leave on Monday].”
Ivanovic came off the bench to score in Saturday’s 4-0 FA Cup win over Brentford at Stamford Bridge, potentially bidding a fitting farewell to the club’s supporters.
Conte believes the versatile defender still has a role to play at the top level and feels it is unfortunate the consistent displays of his first XI have already caused the likes of Oscar and John Obi Mikel to seek pastures new during the season.
“I think Ivan, he played a lot of games for this club and he won a lot for this club,” he said. “He is 32 and I think he can play for many years.
“He is able to continue his career in the right way at the top level. But it is also important to respect the decision of the player.
“This type of a player is a legend in the club and if you are not playing a lot you can make a decision to go and play with another team.
“For sure because when you start the season to work with a squad and a group of players you try to create a link between the players and I, my staff. For sure, we are sorry if someone decides to go away. The same for Oscar and for Mikel, for example.
“But we know this is football and we are prepared for every situation.”
Another player possibly heading for the exit door is Bournemouth target Asmir Begovic, although Conte reiterated his stance that the former Stoke City goalkeeper will not leave unless a suitable deputy for Thibaut Courtois can come in as his replacement.
“Until now I haven’t news about Asmir,” he added. “I think that we have to wait until tomorrow and we’ll see the situation.
“The situation is the same. Asmir wants to go and play because he wants to play every game, but Asmir also knows really well our situation
“If we are able to find a good replacement he’ll go. Otherwise he’ll stay with us and has to fight until the end to try to win the title and find a place as champions.
“I repeat, I have a great respect for every player. If I can help my player to be happy I try to do this.”
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