After a starring role in Chelsea’s 2014/15 Premier League title, Ivanovic has endured almost 18 months of continually declining form. Indeed, he was dropped for significant periods by Jose Mourinho last season (although he certainly wasn’t the only Blues regular to suffer the Portuguese’s wrath) and was deemed culpable for a spate of concedes during Chelsea’s three-game winless run under Antonio Conte in September – including defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.
Fan feeling towards the Serbian international has significantly changed in that period (evident enough through our poll below) and his contract is due to expire at the end of the season. Chelsea’s policy of only handing one-year extensions to players over 30, and usually at the latest point possible, is well-known, but Mirror Football claim Crystal Palace are interested in taking the veteran defender off the west London outfit’s hands – one assumes on a free transfer next summer, rather than in January.
To some extent. Chelsea’s entire squad performed below expectations last term, not least including 2015 PFA Player of the Year winner Eden Hazard, and the Blues’ dramatic improvements defensively since Ivanovic was dropped after the Arsenal defeat stem as much from Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation as the consequential change in personnel.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore that Chelsea have claimed four wins and four clean sheets whilst the 32-year-old has been left on the sidelines and originally converted from a centre-half, he just doesn’t have the pace or stamina to perform the almost box-to-box services expected of modern day full-backs. Likewise, Ivanovic could theoretically line up as a wing-back or a centre-back in Chelsea’s current formation, but Conte has overlooked him for both roles – which in itself is rather telling.
Already into his veteran years, Ivanovic would only ever be a short-term acquisition for Palace. But only five sides have conceded more goals than Alan Pardew’s team this season and they’re still awaiting a first clean sheet of the campaign, excepting a 2-0 win over fourth-tier Blackpool in the League Cup. Clearly defensive improvements are needed and with Damien Delaney now 35 years of age, Ivanovic represents an experienced replacement at the heart of defence – although the Eagles did sign James Tomkins from West Ham during the summer.
At right-back, however, Joel Ward’s long-term association with the South London club has seemingly made him a permanence in that position regardless of Palace’s league standing, so it seems unlikely he’ll be ousted in favour of a defender who’ll turn 33 by the time he (hypothetically) arrives at Selhurst Park next summer. Here’s a look at how his form has compared to Palace’s other defensive options this season based on per-game metrics, courtesy of Squawka.
No doubt, Palace are a logical club to link the Serb with. A player of Ivanovic’s experience and profile would naturally appeal to them and mid-table Premier League sides could certainly do a lot worse than signing a former Champions League winner on a free transfer, even if he comes with sizeable wages. At the same time, it’s likely Ivanovic will want to stay in London if Chelsea don’t offer him fresh terms beyond the summer.
Yet, Mirror Football’s report isn’t the most convincing. It labels Ivanovic as a ‘potential’ target, doesn’t make clear whether Palace want to sign him in January or next summer and ambiguously claims several other Premier League teams, clubs from across Europe and the Far East are all interested, without naming any of them. Likewise, the Eagles aren’t actually mentioned after the first line of the article.
With that in mind, this story could well be sourced from Ivanovic’s representatives, trying to force Chelsea’s hand in offering a new deal. But that’s pure speculation on Football FanCast’s part.