Former Chelsea favourite Branislav Ivanovic thinks the Blues need owner Roman Abramovich back at Stamford Bridge if they are to return to the top of the game.
The 35-year-old, now playing in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg, won three Premier League titles and the Champions League among numerous other honours in a nine-year spell in west London.
Formerly a fixture in the Blues’ hospitality box, Abramovich has been conspicuous by his absence in recent months due to an ongoing visa row with the UK government.
“This is a new Chelsea team,” Ivanovic told FourFourTwo. “The club didn’t have the perfect season last year, but still finished third.
“Chelsea need Roman Abramovich back. That’s the most important thing for all the fans. We want to see him at Stamford Bridge, then Chelsea will be among the best teams in Europe once again.
“He’s been one of the most important people in my career, and I appreciate everything he’s done for me. Whenever I had a difficult moment at Chelsea, he always believed in me. I owe him a lot."
Ivanovic made close to 400 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, including more than 250 in the Premier League.
His former manager Jose Mourinho later referred to him as one of the club’s best ever signings, a compliment he took with pleasure.
“When the greatest manager in Chelsea history, and one of the best managers ever, says that, it means a lot,” he added. “I’m lucky I had the opportunity to work with him.
“Chelsea was the best part of my career and a massive part of my life. I was so happy in London and am proud to have been there for such a long time.”
Chelsea have had a mixed start to life under Ivanovic’s former team-mate Frank Lampard, following a similarly up-and-down time last season under Maurizio Sarri.
While the Italian delivered a third-place finish, two cup finals and a European trophy, many fans were unsatisfied by his style of football and put out by his notoriously stubborn personality.
Ivanovic understood his struggles – and thinks the culture shock played a part in the frosty relationship between manager and fanbase.
"I’m not saying he struggled because he was a new manager in a new country, but it’s so difficult to learn, adapt and understand English football,” he said.
“Everyone who comes to England has difficulties at the start. It’s hard for the players to adapt and react to a new coach, too.”