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Branislav Ivanovic explains why he chose Russia over China option

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Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Branislav Ivanović has been speaking to Russian media as he and his new teammates at Zenit St. Petersburg prepare for the second half of their domestic league season as well as the Europa League last 64 two-legged tie against Anderlecht coming up next week, and among the usual questions about his career up to that point and working with big managers and players and winning all sorts of trophies with Chelsea, Sport-Express ask him how and why the whole transfer to Zenit came about.

“I asked [the club] to release me if I received a suitable offer. Chelsea agreed, and I am very happy with that. There was an option to go to China, but I want to play at a decent level and continue my development. That's why I chose Zenit.”

-Branislav Ivanovic; source: Sport-Express via ESPN

In quotes not picked up by ESPN, Ivanovic also talks about how going back to Russia feels a bit like going home, while still allowing him to play at a competitive level unlike what’s on offer currently in the Serbian league (or the Chinese league).

While his Russian is understandably a bit rusty after nine years in England (and only having Zhirkov, Shevchenko, and a few others, including Abramovich, as the rumors would have it, to practice with) he should have no troubles adapting back to the Russian Premier League. He mentions how not knowing English was a huge obstacle to overcome at the start of his Chelsea career, so it’s not surprising that he chose to go to a place where the language barrier is minimal, at worst. There’s a great video on Zenit’s YouTube page of the club going to pick him at the airport and Ivanovic slowly warming up to the task of conversing in Russian (and not wearing a seatbelt). Reminds me of basically every time I’ve gone back to visit friends and family (albeit not in Russia) — you’re never quite as confident in your own abilities with the old language at first, but you’ll fall back into it sooner or later.

In the rather lengthy interview with Sport-Express, Ivanovic basically has to review his entire Chelsea career, from the highlights to the lowlights, and is also asked his verdict on the all the various coaches he’s played under. Mourinho was special, sure, he agrees, but it’s Ancelotti with whom players would prefer to spend their entire careers since he made players more “comfortable” and did not play mind games. You either loved Mourinho or you hated him, says Ivanovic, a revelation that should not be surprising to us by this time.

When I moved to England, I did not play much, but Avram Grant provided great support, saying that my time will come. Guus Hiddink gave me the first chance. Carlo Ancelotti helped me to make a huge step forward. From Andre Villas-Boas I learned a lot in terms of understanding football. With Di Matteo we had a great relationship. When he became head coach, it was the first time I felt myself becoming one of the leaders of the team, which has to do more than the usual football. With Rafa Benitez I won the Europa League, scoring in the final. Conte gave a lot in terms of tactics and physical preparation.

-Branislav Ivanovic; source: Sport-Express via Google Translate

There’s more, much more in this interview, so if you’ve got a few minutes, click over to Sport-Express and run it through the auto-translator to read Ivanovic’s thoughts on driving in England, looking up to John Terry, and doing his utmost to help Zenit win a few trophies.