Branislav Ivanovic. A legend. Nine years ago, when Avram Grant brought in the Serbian to Chelsea in January 2008, few would have thought that he would go on to achieve such heights with the Blues. Having won everything that there is to be, in European club football, the full-back seems to have reached the end of the road at Stamford Bridge.
The 31-year old has struggled to nail down a place in Antonio Conte’s new 3-4-3 formation so far this season and with a contract that will expire at the end of the season, it looks like Ivanovic is bound for the exit doors.
There were plenty of doubts cast over his signing when he joined the Blues, lacking fitness. But once he started getting his chances, it did not take him long to establish himself as a mainstay at the back, albeit a versatile one, adept at playing either out on the right or in the middle of the defence. His perseverance, his never say die attitude on the field, his maturity and tenacity made him a stand-out performer for Chelsea over the years.
He was ever-present as Chelsea made their way to a historic UEFA Champions League final at Munich in 2012, but had to watch from the sidelines as Chelsea lifted Europe’s most coveted trophy due to suspension. He was not to be denied a year later, though, in the UEFA Europa League final, as he handed Chelsea the trophy with a late, late header.
His name was etched into history on that night, alongside the likes of Peter Osgood, Gianfranco Zola and Didier Drogba as the only players to have scored a winning goal in a major European final for the club. Truly the greatest moment in his glorious Chelsea career.
The longevity of service, his constant presence, throughout the joyous highs and bitter lows with Chelsea, make him one of the greatest players in recent times to have played at Stamford Bridge.
But throughout the last season, a disastrous one for the club and on a personal level for the Serb, his performances were on a steep downslide. And after a poor start to the season this year, that has seen him move to the bench, it seems unlikely that Chelsea will hold on to him.
And it does make sense, for both the player and the club to make a deal away from Stamford Bridge happen this January. At 31 years old, he still has some years left in him and will need regular playing time if he’s to maintain the standards that he sets for himself.
And with the likes of Italian champions Juventus looking at the Serbian along with current La Liga holders Barcelona, to solve their right-back woes, if Chelsea let him leave in the upcoming January window, it will provide him an opportunity to continue playing at a world-class club for a few more years, nothing less than he deserves. Plus, it will also make a sense in financial terms for Chelsea, letting go a player who earns handsome wages but has featured sparingly.
It is highly likely that he will get a move to wherever he desires, given his contributions to the club over the years and his close ties with owner Roman Abramovich, but, if and when Ivanovic moves on he will definitely be missed. One of the most decorated players of the Abramovich era and a legend in the truest of sense.