Antonio Conte admits he has not spoken to Branislav Ivanovic as the long-serving defender negotiates a potential move away from Chelsea before Tuesday night's (31 January) transfer deadline.
Ivanovic, who scored his first goal of the season and won a penalty on Saturday after replacing Willian in the 64th minute of a 4-0 victory over west London rivals Brentford, appears to have become surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge with only eight starts to his name across all competitions so far this term. Conte admitted after that emphatic FA Cup fourth round victory that, while he would be pleased if the veteran Serbian international decided to stay put, he "must make the best decision for him and his family".
With Tony Pulis now ruling out any late West Bromwich Albion loan move for Ivanovic, who has entered the final six months of his current contract, Zenit St Petersburg remain the front-runners with the London Evening Standard reporting that the Russian giants have offered him a two-year deal worth £82,000-per-week.
Premier League leaders Chelsea are reportedly willing to let the player leave on a free transfer, with the likes of Leicester City and Crystal Palace also previously credited with an interest.
"Honestly I didn't speak with the player [Ivanovic] about his decision and for sure we know he is talking with other club," Conte was quoted as saying by Sky Sports at a press conference held prior to the eagerly-anticipated deadline day trip to stalling title rivals Liverpool.
"But until now, I don't know. We have to wait. He played a lot of games for this club, he won a lot for this club. He's 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 important to respect the decision of the player. He is a legend of the career and if you are not playing a lot you an make decision to play for another team."
Another player who could leave Chelsea before the window shuts is Asmir Begovic. The second-choice goalkeeper, who started against Brentford, has been subject of offers from Bournemouth and Conte reiterates that he will only be allowed to leave if a suitable replacement can be found. Craig Gordon seems to have been identified as Thibaut Courtois' next back-up, although Diego Lopez, Fernando Muslera, Karl Darlow, Tim Krul, David Stockdale and Salvatore Sirigu have also been linked with a move to west London over recent days.
"I haven't news about Asmir," Conte added. "I think we will have to wait until tomorrow to see the situation. He wants to play every game but Asmir knows our situation. If we are able to find a good place, he will go. Otherwise he will stay with us and fight until the end, to fight to win the title. If I can help my player to be happy, I try to do this, but it's important the situation does not penalise the team."
Asked if Begovic and Ivanovic will be in the squad for Anfield, Conte said:"Until now yes. I will have the training session I will see."
Chelsea currently have no injury worries to contend with ahead of Liverpool and Conte hopes that will remain the case after a final training session on Monday afternoon.