It’s not often that a defender is associated as a national icon, but for Serbia, it is perhaps understandable.
For a country with a population of just over seven million, it is to be expected that there aren’t a number of world class footballers at their disposal – though their tennis stars aren’t too bad.
In the Serbian national team, arguably only three players stand out on these shores – with two of those now Chelsea teammates.
January transfer signing Nemanja Matic has built up quite a reputation as a fine midfielder, but according to the star, the big Serbian footballing icon is right-back Branislav Ivanovic.
The 30-year-old defender joined the Blues in January 2008, for a reported fee of €13m – a Russian transfer fee record at the time. He has since gone to play more than 150 professional matches for the club, winning a host of trophies in the process.
This season, he has been a regular first-team player for Jose Mourinho, starting 27 of the club’s 29 Premier League matches and remaining as consistent as ever.
His time throughout the club has been carefully monitored back in his native country. Reported by The Mirror, new signing Matic believes Ivanovic’s legacy is set to go on, and that his status is comparable to that of David Beckham in England:
He added: “Branislav is a very good man. Everyone here likes him a lot and it is the same in the national team.
“We have lots of young players in our country’s squad and they look up to him like an idol. It’s good to have someone like him.”
"We are only a small country, but for us Serbians I would say Branislav is a bit like David Beckham in England!”
"In Serbia, he is a king!”
Does Branislav Ivanovic deserve his recognition as a footballing icon back in Serbia?