A look into just why Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic is one of the best in the business but manages to escape the limelight when it comes to his ability.
Saturday’s 2-0 win over Leicester City marked the 11th anniversary of Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea Football Club and during those years the Stamford Bridge side have emerged as one of the powerhouses in European football.
During that spell we’ve seen plenty of star names rock up to West London with the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and John Terry shoot themselves to worldwide fame whilst at Stamford Bridge. Even manager Jose Mourinho announced himself to the Premier League as the self-declared ‘Special One’ whilst some of the off-field stories coming out of SW6 are nothing short of a Hollywood script.
However, amongst the glamour and glitz of one of English football’s most extravagant clubs lies an absolute gem of a player; an unsung hero who remains unaffected by the distractions that come as a by-product of plying his trade at one of world football’s biggest clubs and instead commits himself fully to performing to the highest standard whenever he treads over that white line.
Step forward Branislav Ivanovic
Despite intense interest from Ajax, Juventus and both Milan clubs prior to his transfer from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow, Ivanovic arrived at Stamford Bridge as a relative unknown and it took some time for the defender to announce himself as an integral member of the squad. In fact, he didn’t make a single senior appearance during his maiden six months in England.
- Signed for Chelsea for £9.7m on 16th Jan 2008
- Made Prem debut on 5th Oct 2008 v Aston Villa
- Scored the winner in the 2012/13 Europa League final
- Has played at least 28 league games every season since 2009/10
However, slowly but surely the Serbian climbed the pecking order at Stamford Bridge and is now at a point where he is one of the first names on the teamsheet. Still, it could be argued that the 30-year-old simply doesn’t command the respect that he deserves.
The Suspension and The Bite
When the time does eventually come for Ivanovic to hang up his boots, he will probably be best remembered for two incidents that fail to give any fair reflection of his ability and consistent performances.
Firstly, his name will forever be synonymous with the infamous interview in which Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves heartlessly informed the defender that he would be missing the 2012 Champions League final through suspension.
Perhaps his most notorious moment in a Blues shirt, though, came at Anfield in April 2013 as Liverpool’s mercurial striker Luis Suarez inexplicably took a bite out of the Chelsea defender in the middle of a crucial Premier League fixture. The moment ensures that Ivanovic’s name will forever be written in football folklore the Serbian deserves to be remembered for so much more than being the victim of one of the sport’s most shocking incidents.
Versatility is the key
As well as those two huge memorable events, Ivanovic’s legend may be somewhat maligned as a result of his ability to play in several positions.
The Serbian star has been a victim of his own versatility for much of his Chelsea career, often being switched between right-back and a more central role, but that should not detract from his continued consistency throughout the club’s most trophy laden period.
Ivanovic has played at least 28 Premier League matches in every season since 2009/10 and is fast closing in on 300 competitive club appearances for the Blues. A return of 26 goals from defence is also a very noteworthy statistic, especially when you consider the fact he has a knack for chipping in at crucial moment, including a last gasp winner in the Europa League final of 2013.
However, it is his heroics in the defensive third that make him stand out as one of Chelsea’s star performers. According to reputable stats website WhoScored.com, only playmaker Eden Hazard obtained a higher average match rating at Chelsea last term. Ivanovic has also previously been named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2009/10.
Impressive Trophy Haul
Ivanovic has lifted every trophy that club football has to offer and should be regarded as one of the best defenders to ever grace the Premier League. Chelsea’s continued success is largely built on a economical defence and his towering figure has been a component for well over half a decade – and he appears to still have plenty of life left in his Blues career.
This weekend Ivanovic put in another sterling performance, making the right flank his own against Leicester, but once again it was the attacking players whom stole the headlines.
Fortunately, that suits the reliable right-back just fine.