While most fans would suggest Cesc Fabregas or Eden Hazard when probed on who Chelsea’s best player is, Arsenal legend Robert Pires has told Sky Sports that he believes the answer is Branislav Ivanovic.
Ivanovic, 30, arrived at Stamford Bridge from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008 for a reported £9.7 million fee and, after a somewhat slow start to his Blues career, has grown into one of the club’s most reliable performers.
The Serbia international has made 299 total appearances for the club while shifting between right-back and centre-back, winning six major trophies in the process, and could be set to add a seventh after his extra-time clincher saw Jose Mourinho’s side progress to the Capital One Cup final 2-1 on aggregate following a 1-0 semi-final second-leg win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Pires has been left puzzled as to how the imposing stopper hasn’t received more acclaim in recent seasons, and has even gone as far as to label him one of the best defenders in European football.
“For me, Chelsea's best player is Branislav Ivanovic,” he said. “He's the best defender in the UK and maybe even in Europe.
“I don't understand why nobody talks about him. It’s strange because I think he’s complete. He’s got everything. He's very strong, he’s got a good jump, he's fast and he's got good technique.
“For me, he is perfect for a defender. He’s a giant.”
Going into this season, some doubted whether Ivanovic would even hold onto his starting spot after the summer signing of Filipe Luis from Atletico Madrid, but the Blues stalwart hasn’t missed a single minute of Premier League action so far.
Helping the defence concede just 19 goals from their 22 top-flight matches, Pires’ comments might seem a tad outlandish to some, but there are strong grounds to suggest that Ivanovic is at least one of the more underrated stars in the game.