Branislav Ivanović's Chelsea career began with six months of no action back in 2008, and the way things are going so far in 2016, it might just end in a very similar fashion. The consensus opinion and narrative both point to the Vice-captain leaving either in January or at the end of the season when his contract expires.
But Ivanović didn't give up back in 2008 and he's certainly not giving up that easily in 2016. Having recovered from a muscular injury that kept him out of even bench duty for most of October, the defender was back in the Serbia squad for the past two weeks, where he's closing in on 100 career caps.
More interestingly, Serbia were playing the suddenly fashionable three-man defense as well and Ivanović seemed to slot in well enough. In fact, he seems more enamored than most with this setup, as he revealed when talking with journalists after Serbia's 1-1 draw with Wales over the weekend.
"It's definitely changed our team when [Serbia] started playing with three at the back. Personally it's helped me because I can be in that shape and be there for the team. I think with this shape players can learn a lot tactically. I think it's the future of football."
Antonio, are you listening? More importantly, are you watching?
"Definitely all the managers look at the players for their [national] teams and of course he's a top manager and he was watching all our players."
"I'm ready to play and I like to play, especially for my country, and I'm always ready. Every player in the world likes to play every game but sometimes you don't have the option, but you have to be ready for every challenge and, from my side, I can say I'm ready."
As one of the leaders of the team, Ivanović of course recognizes that it won't be easy breaking back into the starting lineup. Chelsea are playing some of the best football we've seen at Stamford Bridge in many a year, keeping clean sheets for days and scoring aplenty.
"We [Chelsea] are in a good mode, playing some fantastic games, fantastic football. We're working very hard and this is something very positive,"
"I was injured and I'm just back in the [Serbia] team. Of course it's great to be back on the pitch. I need minutes, it's very important for me and I hope in the future I will be physically ready, and ready to play for the team."
-Branislav Ivanović; source: Get West London
Good words from the Vice-captain, mirroring some of his determined words from around this time last year, when his early season was also derailed by poor form and injury. He recovered to play decently enough, but with the change of system and the emergence of other, younger, and dare I say, better options in the squad, that may not happen this time for the 32-year-old. At the moment, Ivanović appears to be nothing more than an emergency backup at right wing-back and maybe in central defense.