Branislav Ivanovic has labelled Chelsea "the best club in the world" as he reflects on his time at Stamford Bridge.
The Serbia international spent nine years in west London between 2008 and 2017, when he left for Zenit Saint Petersburg.
During that time the defender won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League.
“This is my club and I love it,” he said. “The club will always stay in me and I will always be part of Chelsea in my head, 100 per cent. I’m so proud and happy to have had the opportunity to be part of the best club in the world.”
Ivanovic joined the Blues midway through the 2007/08 campaign but had to remain patient for an opportunity in the first team.
In fact, the former Lokomotiv Moscow stopper did not make a single appearance that season as Avram Grant's side finished as runners-up in both the Premier League and Champions League.
And Ivanovic believes that the team of 2007/08 was the strongest Chelsea have ever had.
“For my mind, that was Chelsea’s strongest team in history,” he added. “They were winning games so easily, they smashed opponents and to get in that squad was very hard.
“They were not losing points in many games. Chelsea were a really good, strong machine, one of the best sides in Europe in that moment. To come to that team was very difficult and I knew I wasn’t going to play from the beginning, that I would need time for adaptation.
“People told me it was difficult to change a winning team but that I had to be physically and mentally ready, because I was still young. I was 24 and I was young. Now football has changed and a lot of young players are playing – even at 20, you are not young. But I was desperate to get some minutes to show what I could do on the pitch.
“I was thinking to change something, to go on loan to play somewhere, but thanks to people who believed in me, I stayed at Chelsea.”
Ivanovic watched from the stands of the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as Chelsea lost the 2008 Champions League final on penalties to Manchester United.
He helped make amends four years later, though, as Roberto Di Matteo's side defeated Bayern Munich at their own stadium to get their hands on Europe's biggest prize.
“Chelsea in that period, not just that year, deserved that trophy," he said. "I think the history of the club is based on that night, and to be a small part of it was a very big pleasure for me.”
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