Stoke hit out over Begovic offer but Chelsea remain undeterred

Potters say goalkeeper's head has been turned after claiming that he refused to play in Carling Cup victory

Chelsea retain an interest in goalkeeper Asmir Begovic despite the escalating row with Stoke City over the player's failure to play in the Carling Cup win over Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night.

Chelsea have offered £4m for the 23-year-old Bosnia international, but face competition from Fulham who are looking at their options as they prepare for the departure of Mark Schwarzer to Arsenal.

Double-winners Chelsea believe Begovic would put greater pressure on No 1 Petr Cech than their current reserves Henrique Hilario and Ross Turnbull, but maintain he is only being considered as an understudy.

Stoke however believe Begovic's head has been turned and are considering fining and disciplining the keeper for telling manager Tony Pulis on Tuesday morning that he did not want to play in that evening's game.

Stoke chairman Peter Coates said yesterday he will not be listening to any further offers for their player. "This is an internal matter – and we will decide on what action to take," Coates said. "He is regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the Premier League and we are not interested in any new offers from Chelsea.

"We are not interested in what Chelsea do and we have already rejected an offer from them for Begovic. We wouldn't welcome another bid from Chelsea and, as far as I am aware, we have not received a new offer from Chelsea for him."

Begovic insisted yesterday he did not refuse to play, and would have appeared against Shrewsbury had he been asked to play. The goalkeeper spoke with Bobby Barnes, the deputy chief executive of the players' union the Professional Footballers' Association, to make it clear that he had only said his head was "scrambled".

Barnes said: "The PFA would never condone a player refusing to play for his club, but Asmir was at great pains to make it clear to me, and the wider public, that had he been asked to play against Shrewsbury he would have done so.

"A question was asked of him whether he was in the right frame of mind to play given the interest from Chelsea and he could have said his head was a bit scrambled but he insists he was prepared to play if required. At no stage did he say he wouldn't play.

Barnes added: "He was asked whether his mind was 100 per cent right ahead of the game and he gave a negative response, so the manager then made a decision."

Begovic's actions are the latest example of players who cannot bring themselves to play for their club in the face of rampant transfer speculation.

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano was omitted from the squad that lost 3-0 to Manchester City on Monday night, with the prospect of a move to Barcelona on the horizon. Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said after the game: "Javier Mascherano is not in the right frame of mind at the moment to play the game because his head has been turned by the offer from Barcelona."

On the opening day of the season Wigan manager Roberto Martinez left midfielder Charles N'Zogbia out of the squad to face Blackpool because he was not in the right frame of mind with Sunderland and Birmingham City competing for his services.

They have some way to go however if they are to match the tantrum thrown by Dutch striker Pierre van Hooijdonk, who went on strike for three months at Nottingham Forest in 1998 and trained in the Netherlands when they would not let him leave.

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