Depending on how much we want to read into things, Branislav Ivanovic’s absence from the matchday squad on Saturday against Hull City could be fairly meaningful, especially if the rumors emanating from Russia prove to be true.
Those rumors link Ivanovic with a return to the Russian Premier League, which is where he made his name over 10 years ago now with Lokomotiv Moscow. The team supposedly interested this time are Zenit St. Petersburg, who are second at the winter break. With just six months left on his Chelsea contract, special dispensation could be made to allow Ivanovic to leave, just like we allowed Mikel to leave without much hassle in light of his long service to the club.
Other than two games missed via injury, Saturday’s match was the first time all season Ivanovic was neither in the starting lineup nor on the bench for a Premier League match. The Vice-captain may have stopped being a starter with the switch to the 3-4-3, but he had remained an important defensive option off the bench for Conte. His spot was ostensibly taken by Nathan Ake over the weekend.
Ivanovic has recently been linked with Everton, West Ham, and West Brom as well.