Joy, confined: Chelsea celebrate 'losers' trophy' but the sky's the limit under Abramovich

Blues fans partied long into the night after watching their side seal Europa League glory although, with Jose Mourinho set to arrive, the club have bigger fish to fry next season
By Dan Levene at the Amsterdam ArenA

As the blue ticker tape rained down on the Amsterdam ArenA, it was impossible not to be swept along with the moment.

The DJ played through our anthems of yesteryear - Blue Is The Colour, Blue Day, the manic pogo-inspiring rock-steady beat of Madness' One Step Beyond - and people of all ages partied.

Yes, the Europa League may have been second best - the 'losers trophy' if you're being harsh - but it was one of those moments of which Chelsea supporters of a certain vintage could once only dream.

The partying, which had been fairly unrestrained pre-match in the Dutch capital, continued all night; fathers and sons, groups of mates falling out of bars at 4am and later.

At one stage I saw what I thought was a hen party until I realised every one of the ladies involved was brandishing at least one item on their person bearing the blue lion rampant.

Passion was undimmed, with people living in the moment. But almost all took time to mention the far bigger celebration that was Munich.

Earlier in the ground itself, the two goals and lifting of the cup aside, it was Benfica's fans who largely outshone their rivals. Desperate, lest we forget, for a victory after six consecutive defeats in European finals (this would be their seventh).

The Europa League final did seem to attract a younger than normal crowd, be it down to the location, the lack of cynicism about the game in general, or the sheer stamina required to still be in the running at this end of a slog of a season.

And those younger, through no fault of their own, are more familiar with the success that has become almost commonplace in the almost 10 years since a man called Roman Abramovich walked into our club and said (in the words of the Harry Enfield spoof): "I'll take it."

The shift towards youth means Chelsea now have a growing group of supporters for whom a Europa League win may seem blase. And that highlights the achievements that have been made in that time.

Abramovich has, we are well aware, turned what was for many a music hall joke into one of the biggest names in world football.

It's not been all his work – names like Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Cech, Mourinho, Ancelotti and plenty more besides – can take equal credit. But we all know that, for the most part, one begat the other: and that most of the best nights we've experienced over that period have been thanks to him.

He hasn't changed our culture, but he has added an aspect of achievement that has made it incredibly attractive to a lot more people. And you could say much the same about the money the Premier League has brought into English football in general.

That is not to say Chelsea had 'no history' (as the charge goes) in this area before the Rubles came; the first English side ever to qualify for Europe (even if the FA wouldn't let us go in 1955); winners of the Cup Winners' Cup in 1971 (two years before Liverpool first won a European trophy) and 1998.

Back in those days, to qualify for a competition by dint of, say, being Wembley losers (as the Blues did in 1994) was seen as a triumph.

But the bar has been raised by a decade of being a mainstay of the Champions League (which of course goes back to before the arrival of Abramovich – though it has surely been sustained by the elevation to the level he helped the club reach).

11/4 Chelsea are 11/4 with William Hill to win the Premier League next season
Hence the method of Chelsea's demotion, if you like, to the Europa League leaves a bitter taste – although, for the most part, the only bitter taste experienced by those in Amsterdam was occasioned by a round of absinthe shots.

And it is Uefa, for all their folly, who make these rules - with the side that successfully negotiates all the hurdles rightly calling themselves Champions.

So the celebration was undimmed - the beer flowed in Amsterdam; as did the champagne. But every fan will know, celebrating as much or little as they like, that this is not now enough for a club of Chelsea's pedigree.

There was a feeling, expressed by countless rational non-tin-hat-wearing Chelsea fans not long ago, that the club would never be permitted to win the Champions League.

The depth of refereeing wrongdoing felt like a Uefa-imposed penalty upon a club seen by some as not worthy of the title of Champions of Europe. Which was, of course nonsense: as was seen on May 19 2012 - the greatest day in our history.

In winning the unwinnable, Roberto Di Matteo raised the bar so high as to effectively do himself out of a job. Now Chelsea are at another crossroads. A new manager will be announced shortly. And he will know exactly what the requirements are.

The past decade has been a privilege to see first hand – as all fans who have been there will doubtless agree. But Chelsea have moved on to a decade which the status and being of the club demands must deliver even greater success.

For those reasons there can be nothing wrong with celebrating the 'losers trophy', as we all did in Amsterdam: but there can equally be no aspiration to ever be anywhere near that trophy again.

Follow Dan Levene on