Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed that defender Branislav Ivanovic is one of the best ever signings made by the club in recent years.

The Serbian scored in Chelsea’s away victory over Aston Villa on Saturday and has been a key contributor for his side in both defense and attack.

Mourinho, who has managed him for almost two seasons now, told reporters, “Is he one of the club’s best signings? I think so.

“He came immediately after I left [after my first spell in charge] and after that he made a fantastic contribution for this club. He is a competitive animal with a big heart.

“What really matters more is what we as a club feel for him and people like John [Terry] and [Gary] Cahill, guys that, without them, you cannot do anything.

“A team is an artist like [Eden] Hazard, it is a defender like Branislav. The mix and combination of talent makes a team.

Chelsea’s torrid run against Villa was set to continue last weekend after Jores Okore equalised for them. However, Ivanovic’s stunning strike in the second half earned his side a win. “Every striker in the world would be proud to score that magnificent goal [against Villa]; it is an amazing goal. When he scores that goal and it is three- or 4-0 it is a different feeling. He is a great guy; what he is doing for us is unbelievable,” Mourinho added.

Ivanovic has been at Chelsea since 2008 after signing from Lokomotiv Moscow for a fee of a 12 m, and since then he has gone on to make 301 appearances for the club and has managed to score 29 goals in the process. His physique and aggressiveness in set pieces makes him a very feared opponent in set pieces.

Ivanovic started playing as a center back but has been deployed in the right back role in recent seasons. The 30-year old has grown in the position and his stats back it up as he has scored thrice and assisted four times in 24 Premier League appearances. His spell in England has been a highly successful one as he has lifted three FA Cups, a Community Shield and a Premier League title with Chelsea. Ivanovic has also lifted the UEFA Champions League and Europa League with Chelsea. The League cup is the only trophy that he has not yet lifted with Chelsea although he can do something about it when his side will take on arch-rivals Tottenham in the final very soon.