Chelsea say thanks to departing Rafael Benitez, but all eyes now point to the return of Jose Mourinho

The Spanish manager delivered the Europa League, but will now make way

When the Chelsea team flight left Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in the early hours of this morning, at least 15kg heavier than the inward journey by virtue of the Europa League trophy on board, the question being asked was: who was the kid in the post-match celebrations?

One of the club's senior officials went round the players to ask if any of them were related to the child in question, or even if they had recognised him, but it turned out that, Louis Kearns, 11, from Liverpool, had simply taken it upon himself to wander on to the pitch. He shook hands with Michel Platini, had his hair ruffled by Juan Mata and even took part in Chelsea's guard of honour for beaten finalists Benfica.

If Munich last May had been the emotional "pinnacle", as Frank Lampard later described it, then Amsterdam was just a lot more fun. A competition they never planned to be in, a manager they never envisaged having in charge and a game that they did not look like winning at half-time. And yet it all worked out in the end.

"The last couple of years with Chelsea is always drama, always interesting," Branislav Ivanovic, the match-winner in the 93rd minute, said as he reflected on the game. While the victory in the European Cup final last season felt like the closing of a chapter, the last major target accomplished and the end of Didier Drogba's Chelsea career, there was little time in Amsterdam to look back.

There were not the riotous all-night celebrations – no Drogba victory speeches, cigars or jumping into swimming pools – that accompanied the victory in Munich, not with the last Premier League game of the season on Sunday and third place still up for grabs. Instead, the club came back to London overnight, as they would on any other European away game, and the players are back in training this morning.

The announcement of the new one-year contract extension for Lampard came today and his boot sponsors Adidas were permitted on to the Stamford Bridge turf to create an installation of 203 footballs to mark the 203 spots from which he scored his goals for the club. As for the 48 penalties, they were arranged in ascending order from the penalty spot towards the two corners of the goal.

Now that Lampard's deal is public, not exactly a closely-kept secret in the last two months, there is the acknowledgement that a new era is coming and that era will be the second Chelsea reign of Jose Mourinho. The Lampard announcement was delayed in order not to overshadow Benitez's critical last few days in the job, but once the Europa League had been secured it seemed pointless for the club to hang on any longer. As for the official announcement that Mourinho is to return, that is not likely to come until the second week of June.

Officially, Benitez's contract runs out at the end of next month and, as things stand, he is scheduled to take the team for their two lucrative post-season friendlies against Manchester City in St Louis and New York at the end of this month, although if events conspire otherwise, it is not critical that he does so.

There was acknowledgement from the players that Benitez had made some critical interventions against Benfica. "At half-time Rafa spoke with us to change many things," David Luiz said. "He changed some of our positions in the second half. That's why we played better and won the title. He spoke a lot to us to change the intensity."

Juan Mata even credited the interim coach for spotting the weakness in Benfica that led to the winning goal itself. "We did [practice corners]," he said. "Rafa told us we had to aim to the far post, because it was his [the Benfica goalkeeper] Artur's weakest place. I just tried to put the ball there and Ivanovic did the rest."

But it was Mourinho and the new era at Chelsea that will be uppermost in the minds of the squad when they return to training today to prepare for the game against Everton on Sunday. When Lampard considered his club's failure to stay the pace in the title race for the last two seasons he identified the requirement to "get back to that battering ram, winning mentality", a mentality that permitted Chelsea to "win games 1-0 even when we weren't at our best."

"It's a bit like a magic recipe that's hard to explain," he said. "It's a lot of mental work on that. You have to be able to go out even when not at your best and grind out results. It's funny because when we won under Jose before we got criticised for the fact that we were so dogged. It doesn't mean taking away the beautiful football but you have to have a balance.

"I feel it's a huge priority to be challenging for the league again next season as well get through the Champions League group stages. As a fan, the Premier League is your bread and butter. It will be a big task but it's the main one."

The most telling remark from Benitez over the last three days was his comment to a Spanish radio station on Wednesday night that "Chelsea will be much better next season because they will spend £100m on three or four players."

In different circumstances – very different circumstances – he would like to have been part of it. But even Wednesday's win cannot change the course that Chelsea have now plotted.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried