As so often in the modern game, the benches were the barometer. Chelsea's outfield substitutes were Germany's captain, a man who has scored the winning goal in a Champions League final, a recent recruit to the England squad, and three others who cost £18m between them. Everton's were three teenagers, a 20-year-old with eight league starts in four years, an unknown Dane, and an on-loan Ecuadorian. Total cost: the £200,000 they paid Plymouth for Dan Gosling.
So, when Chelsea took control in the Wembley heat, the Everton manager, David Moyes, looked at his bench in vain for a game-changing substitution. Gosling had done the trick against Liverpool in the fourth round, but it was asking a lot to expect him to repeat it against a back four Ricardo Carvalho cannot get into.
Even the goalkeeping comparison was unflattering. Hilario may be something of a jobbing pro, but he has kept Barcelona at bay in the Champions League while Carlo Nash last played in the top flight four years ago.
Not that Moyes was complaining after Saturday's defeat. These are the facts of life and his job is to try to bridge the financial gulf.
The solution is to get into the Champions League, the competition from which Chelsea earned at least £30m more this year than Everton's Uefa Cup participation. That is why Moyes said the Champions League qualifier they lost to Villarreal in 2005 was the biggest match in his seven-year reign. But with the same quartet monopolising the Champions League places, that is going to be very difficult, as better-resourced teams than Everton have discovered.
"We should all be hoping that somebody does break into that top four," said Moyes after Saturday's final, "because that might alter the whole dynamics of football. If it's going to keep being money, money, money something is going to go wrong. But football goes in cycles. Teams are at the top at different times. I think Everton's cycle is a lot closer to coming around again. Everton had great teams in the Eighties and I think we're getting much closer to that.
"We've had a really good season and that's the message I've given the players. Maybe we didn't finish it as we'd have liked to but, overall, they've had a great season. Now we have to do it again. The team is still growing. The team is young enough and hungry enough to keep going but it will be hard because there's a lot of clubs wanting to be best.
"We're the side who've finished fifth the last two seasons and reached the Cup final. But we have to keep our progress going. We have to believe that if there isn't any money then maybe we could win a cup or squeeze into fourth again. We have to keep doing that."
The signs are that there will not be much money. Moyes has regularly broken Everton's transfer record – and £15m for Marouane Fellaini (below left) was a big expense – but Bill Kenwright, the chairman, has indicated that the banks are no more inclined to extend further credit to Everton FC than to most other businesses.
"We didn't have the finances in place until late on last summer so we were not able to buy until close to the transfer window," Moyes said. "I'd like to get the money a bit earlier this time and do some deals earlier. The Premier League is popular around the world and Everton will be getting mentioned here and there. We should be attractive because if a player isn't getting to the small groups of teams above us, we are one of the best stops after that."
Maybe a billionaire owner would help. Portsmouth appear to have found one. Moyes responded with caution to that suggestion. "There's a lot to be said for having a chairman who's a supporter because you know what you're dealing with and what to expect. At the moment it's a bit of a fashion to have someone who comes in, and then goes. Maybe in future we'll get back to basics and have owners who love their clubs and love their team.
"There's only two or three bigger clubs than Everton in England. Because we compete with someone who has more money, does that mean they're bigger? Not really. It might give you more scope, but it doesn't make you bigger. Everton are a great football club. It hurts me that we haven't won any silverware as a team. But we'll keep going.
"I feel as though we're not that far away from [Chelsea]. Sometimes you feel they're a long, long way from us and we can't touch them. But today we were touching it. We were beaten by the better team but we weren't that far away. I have to take heart from that."
Moyes, who dismissed out of hand talk of interest in him from Celtic – the club he began his playing career with – added: "I'm really ambitious and I'm making sure my chairman and the club stay ambitious. We can't stop. Around this time last year I thought we had a chance. We finished fifth and I thought, 'Come on, let's have a go', but we're not quite there yet. There's been progress. I'll keep persisting and, hopefully, we'll get there together."
It would help if Everton could avoid the injuries that would have crippled a less spirited squad. As if to underline their loss, two of those voted Player of the Round this FA Cup campaign, Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka, were watching from the sidelines, as was Ayegbeni Yakubu. "It's like taking John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba out of their team," Moyes said.
With that he left, to take a brief holiday, then return to seek out another Tim Cahill, another Arteta, in the continuing quest to bridge the gap before the likes of Manchester City nudge Everton further away from the top.Reuse content