Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic: Profile
The assembled journalists were awaiting a 'top table' of players and manager to preview the competition and, alongside AC Milan's Carlo Ancelotti and Paulo Maldini, were nametags for the Chelsea representatives of Luiz-Felipe Scolari and Andrei Shevchenko. However, news soon filtered through that Shevchenko had dropped out and Ivanovic would fill in. A collective groan echoed around the conference room. It is a fair bet that the journalists at Anfield on Wednesday night were rather more keen to speak to the forgotten man of Chelsea FC. Indeed, from a match that contained such luminaries of world football as Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Didier Drogba, it was difficult to conceive a more unlikely hero. Ivanovic, though, is suddenly at the forefront of everyone's mind, not least Rafael Benitez, whose famed tactical nous did not appear to extend to stressing the importance of Liverpool players picking up the Serbian international from set-pieces. Much had been expected of Ivanovic when he joined Chelsea in January from Lokomotiv Moscow for almost £10 million - then the most expensive transfer in Russian football history. He arrived with the reputation of one of the best and most versatile defenders in the emerging Russian league and there was a hope that he would fill the problem position of right-back and also provide cover for John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho at centre-back. Avram Grant, however, was clearly unconvinced and he did not make a first-team appearance last seson. In the 2008 Champions League final, Grant even preferred to use a midfielder in Michael Essien at right-back; a decision that Cristiano Ronaldo punished for Manchester United's first goal. AC Milan were interested during the summer but Scolari insisted that Ivanovic remained in his plans. More than eight months after becoming a Chelsea player, Ivanovic finally started his first senior game for the club against Portsmouth in the Carling Cup on Sept 24, 2008. He then made his league debut against Aston Villa, though only played nine times under Scolari. Amid interest from Fiorentina, Ivanovic can now hope to really kick-start his Chelsea career under Guus Hiddink, who knows him well from his time playing at Lokomotiv. His two goals against Liverpool will also not come as such a surprise to Hiddink and other followers of his career. At present he is also the top scorer for Serbia in their World Cup qualifying group.
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