Ex-Chelsea man Ivanovic should be remembered for his unsung greatness

Recent conversations concerning Chelsea Football Club have centred around their 1-1 wrestling match with Liverpool and the tactically perfect 3-1 win over a vibrant but ultimately toothless Arsenal. Two potentially pivotal moments in this season's title race understandably dominated the news agenda. But behind the clearly merited clamour for the intelligence of Antonio Conte and the genius of Eden Hazard, the transfer of Branislav Ivanovic to Zenit St Petersburg passed without any fanfare.

In what was an exceptionally inactive Transfer Deadline Day, the departure of such a dependable and decorated player that had spent nine years in English football was unseemly quiet. It almost felt as if Ivanovic was being shuffled out of the back door without being afforded the acclaim that he so richly deserves. After all, this is a player that has won two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the League Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League. Few players in the Premier League era, outside of Manchester United and Chelsea, can boast as impressive a collection of club medals.

Perhaps it is because Ivanovic is not exactly a poster boy for the sport's marketing men or the type of niche antihero so beloved by footballing hipsters. He is a rugged, no-nonsense defender who speaks in monotones and just gets on with his job. His face may never be used to sell perfume or shampoo but that doesn't diminish how important he was to Chelsea despite a slow start to his career in London and a ponderous last season and a half.

That latter point is perhaps another reason why his departure elicited little more than a shrug from many. The last 18 months of his time at Chelsea were little short of horrendous. Retained in the team by Jose Mourinho despite being so desperately short of form, he was barracked by some of his own supporters at matches while receiving all sorts of vitriolic comments on social media. Although the entire team was underperforming, Ivanovic became the lightning rod for many fans' anger and he received a hugely disproportional amount of criticism. Vital contributions, such as the fourth goal against Napoli during the run to Champions League glory and the winner in the Europa League final, had been forgotten by those with ridiculously short memories in their search for a scapegoat.

It was apt that Ivanovic departed Stamford Bridge in the winter transfer window as that was also the point in the season that saw his arrival, in 2008, to become one of the rare success stories of players bought during the mid-season shopping frenzy. Little was actually seen of him in a Chelsea shirt for the first few months as he struggled for fitness and failed to represent the club until the following campaign. Even then he failed to impress manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and it wasn't until he scored two headed goals away at Liverpool in 2009, in the first leg of Champions League quarterfinal after Guus Hiddink had taken over that things really started to happen for him.

That in itself is a testament to the man. Ivanovic was prepared to shun interest from other clubs when he could easily have jumped ship as well as counter disinterest from his own manager in order to work hard and force his way into the team. It showed the type of determination and refusal to be beaten that would characterise his later displays.

Ivanovic had arrived at Chelsea to compete for a place in central defence but actually forged a career as a right-back despite lacking the classic lithe body shape or the pace normally associated with the position. The modern full-back is often a converted winger and expected to play like one when in possession and there was nothing about the Serbian's appearance or approach that suggested he was suited to the role. And yet he was twice named in the PFA Team of the Year at right-back, proving all the doubters wrong in the process.

Prior to him cementing himself there, it should be remembered that right-back had become problem position for Chelsea. Paolo Ferreira and William Gallas had excelled but the former lost his lustre and the latter left the club in acrimony. The likes of Geremi, Lassana Diarra and Juliano Belletti were among those to be deployed there yet none convinced on a consistent basis. Ivanovic's conversion from centre-back provided the long-term solution.

Despite being out of the picture this season since the switch to a back three, Chelsea fans were granted one last glimpse of Ivanovic as a substitute in the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Brentford. The 32-year-old did not disappoint in a 30-minute cameo during which he started and finished a length of the field move with a well-taken goal and provided two-inch perfect crosses of which Gianfranco Zola would have been proud. It was a fitting on-field finish for a modern-day Chelsea legend, it's just a shame his departure passed almost without a second thought.