Serbian international defender Branislav Ivanović is aiming to follow the example of compatriot Nemanja Vidić as he looks to make an impact in England with Chelsea FC.
Ivanović joined the London club from FC Lokomotiv Moskva last week in a reported €12m deal, and was soon on the phone to the Manchester United FC centre-back for advice. "I spoke with Nemanja and he explained everything he could to me," the 23-year-old told uefa.com. "I know I will have to adapt to some local and long-established features of the game, to accept the supporters' great love for football, and to learn English. I will start trying now. I'm grateful to Vidić who has helped me like a real friend."
Currently in his third season with United since signing from FC Spartak Moskva in 2005, Vidić has formed a formidable central defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand, playing a key role in helping bring the Premier League title back to Old Trafford last term. Ivanović will try to achieve similarly at Chelsea. "This is a great feeling," he said. "I am the newest addition to a real giant. I have signed a contract and with that comes great responsibility – to be the best in each match, to give everything on and off the pitch, and to improve. I am ready to do all that."
The hard work began on Monday when Ivanović trained for the first time with his new colleagues. He has been out of action since the Russian campaign ended in November and watched on as Chelsea defeated Birmingham City FC in the Premier League on Saturday. Wednesday's English League Cup semi-final second leg against Everton FC will come too soon, but Ivanović insists he will be raring to go when called upon. "I am ready, but more hard work will be good for me," he said. "Individual practice is good, but working with your team-mates is better. I'm in solid condition – very soon I will be stronger still."
Ivanović faces tough competition for a place in the Chelsea rearguard, yet his ability to play in the centre or on the right suggests an opening should not be long in coming. "I don't want to sound picky. My preferred position is as a centre-half, but I'm ready to do whatever the coach asks." Ivanović is the third Serbian to represent Chelsea after Slaviša Jokanović and Mateja Kežman and his progress comes as no surprise back home.
After starting his career at FK Srem, he made his name at OFK Beograd. Lokomotiv had to fight off interest from both FK Crvena Zvezda and FK Partizan to sign him in 2006. By then Ivanović had claimed the first of his eight caps for Serbia, and he had established himself as a regular by the close of his country's fruitless UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying campaign.
Ivanović's composed performances as captain of the Serbia side that reached the final of last summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship were further indication his star was on the rise. Now with Chelsea, he is determined to fulfil that promise. "I learned so much at each of my clubs," he said. "I took my first steps with Srem, then at OFK I built my reputation at a high level, while at Lokomotiv I faced new challenges. I thank all of them, but Chelsea is my new family now."
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