Following weeks of speculation surrounding his future, Branislav Ivanovic has finally completed his long-awaited move to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg. The Serbian signed off from life in West London with a goal as a substitute in Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Brentford, before heading to Zenit to sign a two-and-a-half-year contract with the team, who are currently second in the Russian Premier League standings.
The 32-year-old was left out of the squad to take on Liverpool at Anfield, instead flying to St Petersburg to finalise his deal. Having signed for Chelsea back in 2009 from Lokomotiv Moscow, Ivanovic became a firm fans favourite thanks to his dominating displays as both right-back and centre-back. However, he fell out of favour under new boss Antonio Conte, with the Italian preferring a 3-4-3 formation, in which Ivanovic found himself a back-up to the likes of Gary Cahill and David Luiz. Ivanovic will now look to help Zenit to glory immediately, with the Russian giants 15/1 on with Betway to win this year’s Europe League.
After 377 appearances for the Blues in all competitions, winning every major and domestic trophy on offer, with Ivanovic even scoring the winning goal in the 2013 Europa League final against Benfica, the Serbian will certainly be held in high regard by the Stamford Bridge faithful. He will link up with former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov at Zenit, with the Russian international having enjoyed two seasons in London, before returning to his homeland.
The decision to allow a player of Ivanovic’s experience perhaps comes as a surprise to some, however with Kurt Zouma returning to full fitness, as well as Nathan Ake returning from his loan spell at Bournemouth, opportunities were likely to be limited for the Serbian, with even John Terry struggling for game time this season. The Blues Captain has recently admitted that he will happily not feature for the remainder of the season, if it means Chelsea lifting the Premier League trophy.