Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic 'desperate' for first-team football

LONDON -- Asmir Begovic admits he is "desperate" to play regular first-team football, but insists he will accept Antonio Conte's decision to block his January move to Bournemouth if Chelsea cannot sign a replacement goalkeeper before Tuesday's transfer deadline.

Last week Conte confirmed that Bournemouth had made an approach for Begovic -- reportedly an offer in the region of £12 million -- but warned that he would only agree to the sale if Chelsea manage to acquire another goalkeeper capable of providing cover for Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea have identified a number of goalkeepers as possible replacements for Begovic. Chief among them is Celtic No. 1 Craig Gordon, but manager Brendan Rodgers remains adamant that the former Sunderland man is not for sale.

Begovic was handed a rare start as Chelsea beat Brentford 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to book their place in the FA Cup fifth round, but after the match the Bosnia international confirmed that he would rather play regularly elsewhere in the Premier League than continue to be a fringe member of a potentially title-winning squad.

"It will be sorted out over the next couple of days -- obviously the club decide," Begovic said. "For me, it is about wanting to play. I find it very difficult, not playing for a long time and that's something that I would like to do. If the club would allow me to do that, under the right circumstances, then that's what I'll do.

"If not, I will continue to work hard and support everyone and the team. If everyone is happy then I hope something gets done, but if not, I have a huge respect for the manager and the club so they know my feelings and it is nothing other than wanting to play."

Asked if Conte understands his feelings, Begovic added: "It has been obviously not the longest relationship but so far so good and we are quite open about it. He knows I am desperate to play and that's all it is really. If he can make it happen for me then he will, but it won't be just like that for anyone and if it can happen, in the next couple of days, then so be it.

"I hope the team lifts the title and maybe I will be part of that. It is difficult to say, but it is difficult when you don't play for a certain amount of time and that overrides everything. I am a footballer, I like to play and I came here to challenge myself. I have enjoyed everything so far and if I am still here then I will continue to work hard and that's all I can do."

Providing cover for Courtois has been a big adjustment for Begovic, who spent five seasons as Stoke City's No.1 goalkeeper before moving to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2015, and the 29-year-old believes he still has plenty to offer as first choice at an established Premier League club.

"I am 29, 30 in the summer and I feel fantastic," Begovic continued. "I feel in such great shape that it would be a waste not to play and show people what I can do. I do believe that I can play at this level and show everyone what I can do and that remains to be seen."