The Champions of Europe (for the next few weeks, at least) defeated FC Basel of Switzerland and have moved on to the Europa League final to face Portugal’s Benfica. However, considering that I just called them the Champions of Europe, a term usually reserved for the winners of the Champions League, one would think that the last thing Chelsea FC wanted to be tasked with doing was winning Europe’s second-tier competition only a year after hoisting the big-earred cup.
In a campaign where Chelsea featured in eight tournaments, it wasn’t a stretch to think that they would come away with a trophy or two. The Club World Cup has had a history of being a pretty easy road for the Champions of Europe once they manage to navigate their way through the Copa Libertadores winner.
Instead, Chelsea has been knocked out of the running for all the tournaments they began the season in and have to settle for being the bridesmaid in the pecking order of European tournament champions to the winner of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund’s May 25th meeting at Wembley Stadium.
Some will say the Europa League serves as a second chance for the teams knocked out of the Champions League group stage. A chance for the supporters and the players to relive old memories of working their way through a grueling two-legged knockout stage that tests the mettle of all those involved. It’s safe to say that Roman Abramovich is not someone who thinks this way.
The Blues will have a chance to make history when they meet Benfica in Amsterdam. Should Chelsea defeat the Águias, they will become the fourth team to win all of Europe’s intercontinental titles joining Juventus, Ajax and Bayern, an impressive list to join. This will surely quiet a few who say the club has no history as they continue to add to their trophy case, but how consoling are such accolades?
Rafa Benitez made his name winning the UEFA Cup — the Europa League’s predecessor — but it is all but guaranteed that he will be gone at season’s end and is only going through the motions of managing the team for a few more months. For another season, they are without Premier League glory and the sting of being one of the few defending Champions League cup holders bounced in the group stage won’t be going away soon.
The money will flow again in the summer at Stamford Bridge. It has already begun with the agreement of the deal to bring André Schürrle to London. We will see players move in and players move out, but it won’t easily be forgotten that the season’s only trophy may be won in the Europa League by the manager that no Chelsea fan wanted to win for them.
From the supporters to the highest executives, May 15th may be a day where they hoist another piece of silverware but it will always fail in comparison to the miracle run of Roberto di Matteo and the team that never should have won the Champions League.