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'This is just the beginning'

FRANK Lampard last night told Chelsea supporters fearing the club's greatest moment would also mark the end of an era: "This is just the beginning."

The Blues' victorious captain said their Champions League triumph would be a springboard for Chelsea to join European football's elite. "The big thing for the club now is to move on, and that will happen because the owner has the desire to move on, the players want to keep going - no one wants to settle for one win," he said.

"The owner spoke through a translator in the dressing room afterwards. He was very positive about everything. He was emotional. He really cares. People talk a lot of rubbish about Chelsea and the owner but you could see how much it meant to him."

Whether "moving on" means finding a new manager this summer, as was originally the plan when Roberto Di Matteo took over as caretaker, will be decided this week.

"Roberto is certainly in the mix. He has done a great job and has to have serious consideration," said the chairman, Bruce Buck.

The chief executive, Ron Gourlay, added: "It's been an incredible few months. We brought Robbie in as an interim manager and we have seen a phenomenal change and a run of results that finished with winning the Champions League."

The players continue to give their backing to Di Matteo, although even after the most historic night in the club's history none of them believed it was a formality that he would be taken on as permanent first-team coach.

Jon Obi Mikel said: "He will be happy with what he has done whether he gets the job or not. I personally would like him to get the job but the club will take the right decision."

On Abramovich's entrance into the dressing room in the early hours of yesterday morning to celebrate with his players, Mikel added: "He was a very happy man. I think he went home and slept well. He had always made it clear to us this is the trophy he wanted to win."

If Drogba looks to start next season in China on a rumoured contract of £250,000-a-week he will have signed off in the most incredible fashion, his last kick earning Chelsea the Champions League trophy. Lampard said: "Didier gave a speech in the dressing room afterwards; I think he's going to be a politician one day. The personality he brings out in the squad is as important as what he does on the pitch."

Lampard also hailed the Chelsea spirit that will now carry them into a new era, not as European Cup wannabes but as Champions League holders. He said: "I have never seen a focus in a team like this. We carried on from Barcelona. You just get a feeling that your name is on the cup. You don't like to say it before because you look like such a fool if it doesn't turn out that way, but that is the way it felt. People can talk about luck but we have had enough bad luck in this competition over the years that people can't just point to luck this year. The circumstances of the victory only make the achievement greater and you could see that in the celebrations.

"We have had to suffer to win it. We had to come to their home stadium and defend for our lives, with people throwing bodies in front of the ball, and then for it to come down to penalties when you might think 'game over', yet we managed it.

"The momentum just carried us through. Players had tears in their eyes at the end - football can do that to you."

David Luiz, who confidently dispatched his penalty into the top corner during the shoot-out, admitted that he had played through the pain of his hamstring injury.

"After 20 minutes it felt bad but I told myself I was not going to let it make me come off," added Chelsea's Brazilian defender.

"I dreamed of playing in this game as a kid. I did not need to play with my body when my heart was strong."


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