Jose Mourinho hailed match-winner Branislav Ivanovic and claimed the Chelsea defender is one of the club’s best ever signings.
The right-back smashed in the decisive goal at Aston Villa on Saturday to clinch a crucial 2-1 victory which sent the Blues seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Hull City handed Mourinho’s side the advantage in the race for the title.
Ivanovic arrived from Lokomotiv Moscow for £9.7million (Dh54m) in 2008 and, after his fifth goal in his last six starts against Villa, Mourinho believes he is one of Chelsea’s top captures.
“He came immediately after I left and after that he made a fantastic contribution for this club. He is a competitive animal. A big heart," Mourinho said.
“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.
“Every striker in the world would be proud to score that magnificent goal, it is an amazing goal, scored by Ivanovic.
“When he scores that goal and it is three or four nil it is a different feeling.
“He is a great guy, what he is doing for us is unbelievable.”
Mourinho and Villa boss Paul Lambert failed to shake hands at the end and, while the Stamford Bridge chief did not name him, he issued what could be taken as a veiled dig at his opposite number.
He said: “If they go down it is not because of the quality of their players for sure.
“I believe they are not going down. I wish that because this is a big club. An historical club. I wish they stay in the Premier League. I wish and I believe.”
When asked if it was the manager’s fault he said: “I am saying nothing. I am saying that’s football. They have more than enough.”
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