Branislav Ivanovic: An influential figure not given the credit he deserves
Branislav Ivanovic celebrates winning the UEFA Europa League with Chelsea in 2013 | Photo: Getty/ Michael Regan

“You do not play in the final” – the crushing words of Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves to Branislav Ivanovic following the thrilling Champions League semi-final second leg at the Nou Camp in April 2012.

It was clear to see that the defender was so pre-occupied with the task at hand, he had failed to register that he would have to watch the final from the stands after a 48th minute yellow card meant he incurred a suspension. 

As the Serbian ‘monster’ returns to the Premier League with West Bromwich Albion, it brings back further memories of his time at Chelsea and the key role he played in some of the biggest moments in the Blues’ history. 

Unknown entity to winning it all

Despite being an unknown entity, Ivanovic joined Chelsea in January 2008 from Lokomotiv Moscow for £10.8m.

The start of his Chelsea career didn’t get off to the best of starts under Avram Grant but as the Chelsea managerial rollercoaster got into full flow - seven managers in and out the door between September 2007 and November 2012 - Ivanovic adapted and soon settled into his role at the club.

He went onto make 337 appearances between January 2008 and February 2017, and won an impressive 3 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 FA Community Shields, 1 English League Cup, 1 Champions League and 1 Europa League

Ivanovic’s final game for Chelsea came in a 4-0 FA Cup win over neighbours Brentford - a somewhat low-key end to a decorated Chelsea career that brought vital goals and historic moments.

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Branna has arrived

On 8 April 2009, Chelsea recorded a 3-1 victory in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool.

Ivanovic was out of favour with then boss Guus Hiddink but was offered a rare start. Despite the hosts taking the lead through a Fernando Torres strike on six minutes, Ivanovic soon levelled with what was his first goal for the club, before adding a second after the interval with his second header of the match. Didier Drogba went onto add a third and put the Blues in pole position to qualify.

Those goals proved vital as Chelsea would eventually progress 7-5 on aggregate after a crazy 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge in the second leg.

The Napoli comeback 

That contribution is somewhat dwarfed though compared to Ivanovic's intervention in what turned out to be a historic Champions League season in 2012 as Chelsea overturned a 3-1 deficit from the first leg against S.S.C. Napoli to take the game to extra-time. 

In a team full of stars, it was Ivanovic who was the hero as he smashed home a Drogba cross into the top corner to make it 4-1.

This goal was made even more special as Chelsea went on to win the Champions League that season.

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Hero once again

In the 2013 Europa League final against S.L. Benfica, with the score finely balanced at 1-1, the game was set to enter extra-time, until Chelsea got a corner in the dying minutes of added time.

Juan Mata’s cross was met by Ivanovic at the back post and the ball looped into the far corner for the Blues to claim a second European title in as many years. 

Following a season of ups and downs, it was once again Ivanovic who became the hero in Europe.

It is unlikely that Ivanovic will ever be spoken about in the same breath as Chelsea legends Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba or Petr Cech, but if it wasn’t for his impact and determination to the end, some of Chelsea’s recent successes might have turned out very differently.