Understated class can often be just as important as the in-your-face glitzy showboating, just as Branislav Ivanovic.
When he first arrived on English shores the right-back must have been something of an unfancied prospect. He was talented sure, but how many other players have been fed through the Stamford Bridge machine only to come out beaten and fragile shadows of the individuals they once were? Too many for me to analyse, that’s for sure.
Yet Ivanovic has enjoyed a steady rise to stardom in west London, one not aided by hatfuls of goals or eye-catching skills. He’s grafted to earn his keep and built a reputation that has its foundations in stoic defending and invaluable consistency.
Jose Mourinho was probably right when he predicted that Ivanovic could go down as one of Chelsea’s best ever signings; he was certainly Avram Grant’s best piece of business for the club. Right about now he’s on par with the likes of Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and John Terry with regards to his importance to Mourinho’s plans, and that’s no mean feat considering how often full-backs are overlooked when it comes to assessing title-contending squads.
And yet my opening few paragraphs on Ivanovic, riddled with praise as you might have noticed, point only towards a fact that could ironically end up leaving Chelsea stung. Most football fans will have read about it in the past few days anyway, so here goes; he’s so good that he’s attracting attention from European superpowers.
Surprisingly it’s not Real Madrid who are desperate to get their money-laden mitts on the Serb, but that will be of little comfort for Mourinho. Ivanovic’s supposed suitors are the irresistible Bayern Munich and the increasingly impressive Paris Saint-Germain, two outfits extremely sound in the financial department and able to boast dominion over their respective divisions.
Fears must be growing
Now, Mourinho’s never been a manager to panic, but even he must be feeling the beads of sweat slowly trickling down the back of his neck as the summer approaches. Plans to have Ivanovic take over the job of marshalling the back-line once John Terry’s boots have been hung up for good must have been occupying a place in the forefront of The Special One’s mind, and the interest from overseas does not bode well in the slightest.
What makes the speculation surrounding Bayern’s interest particularly alarming is that it’s a plausible claim.
With Ivanovic’s current contract set to expire next summer it will be all hands to the pumps to ensure a new deal is struck before the end of this season, but even then the offer on the table will only be for another 12 months - as Stamford Bridge protocol surrounding over 30s dictates - which the man himself might not want to accept.
Disaster must not strike
That would be a disastrous scenario for Mourinho, who could look to use Ivanovic as a mentor-like figure for the likes of Kurt Zouma and whoever might be brought into the fold this summer. Gary Cahill has experience but he’s not as reliable as the Serbia international, and the roving right-back has become a dangerous tool for the Blues in his own right.
Chelsea may well win the title this season, and inevitable strengthening will take place to give them the best possible chance of retaining it next term. If Mourinho loses Ivanovic though it will certainly hamper their chances of doing that, whilst also potentially having a detrimental impact on the future.
Chelsea fans, how important is it that Mourinho keeps hold of Ivanovic past this summer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below...