Images of an iconic night in Moscow linger with Ben Chilwell. It was Chelsea against Manchester – United not City – and the first Champions League final contested by two English teams.
It was a symbolic moment for Roman Abramovich at the Luzhniki Stadium on the most prestigious stage in European club football. Perhaps just as his club arrived where he demanded it.
In Milton Keynes, Chilwell was 11 years old and stuck to the TV. “That’s the one that stands out,” the England international remembers. ‘United against Chelsea is probably the one I remember most. My dad made me aware that it was an all English final and that I had to watch it.
Ben Chilwell has revealed all about joining Chelsea to win trophies as he prepares for the grand final
Frankly, my dad probably wanted United to win. It didn’t bother me too much. I just loved watching the footie. Extra time and penalties, and so many good players who play. It was a long night, but it was a thrilling match and punishments are always fun, aren’t they? ‘
Not so much fun, it turned out, for John Terry or Nicolas Anelka. They both failed to score from the spot when Chelsea lost the shootout in torrential rain. Neither Didier Drogba, who was sent in overtime.
Four years later, they finally won against Bayern Munich in Munich. It was another night of drama and a very happier memory for those at Stamford Bridge.
Chilwell recalls that Chelsea lost the Champions League final in 2008 at the age of 11
By the time they lured Chilwell out of Leicester for £ 50m last summer, an entire generation had grown up with Chelsea among the elite of European football. On Saturday they will compete in Porto in their third Champions League final against Manchester City.
“You come to Chelsea to win trophies,” says Chilwell, “to fight for the title every season and go to the cup final. This season we’ve secured the top four, entered an FA Cup final and now the Champions League final.
‘I also looked in 2012. It was a good match in Munich when I saw an English team win and again my dad made sure I knew it was great for English football. And you start to appreciate the history of a club.
‘People talk about it on the training ground. It would be nice if we could replicate that and go get that Champions League trophy for the club for the second time. ‘
Since joining Chelsea, Chilwell have made it to the FA Cup final and secured a spot in the top four
For Chilwell – who was overlooked by his local team Milton Keynes Dons and joined Leicester via Rushden & Diamonds – there have been tough times in his young career.
At the age of 16, he was about to be released until a reshuffle at Leicester academy brought in new coaches Kevin Fogg and Mark Jackson.
Fogg, who also helped forge the careers of English defenders Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire at Sheffield United, recognized something in Chilwell that made him captain of the Under 16s and has never looked back.
“The whole rollercoaster ride,” 24-year-old Chilwell recalls.
‘The days at Woburn Lions just playing with my friends.
“The highs, the lows, the season at Leicester that I found very difficult, but now looking back has probably helped me the most in my career in terms of mentally and knowing what it actually takes to play at this level.”
Twists and turns in his personal journey were brought back to life on Tuesday in a phone call with a friend, Matty Miles.
Chilwell remembers hard times in his young career before playing in Leicester
They were teammates in the Leicester youth rankings and Miles is now a gym teacher and coach who played as a semi-pro for Peterborough Sports until the lockdown brought the Southern League to a halt.
“He was 17 when he was released and we’ve stayed very close ever since,” Chilwell says.
“He said to me,” Can you imagine when we played in Belvoir Drive on the youth team, you would be playing in a Champions League final in a few years?
‘We laughed a bit about that and we reminisced together. He was the captain of our youth team.
“Just to see how happy he was for me and to talk about the old times and the fact that we stayed close and he comes out to watch the game.”
Left back Chilwell played a lot for Chelsea in his first season after signing for £ 45 million
Frank Lampard – who scored for Chelsea in Moscow in 2008 and captained the team four years later with Terry suspended in Munich – was in charge when Chilwell signed.
But this formative team has really started to thrive under his successor Thomas Tuchel.
They recovered from ninth place in January to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season, losing to Leicester in the FA Cup final, and the players are getting used to Tuchel’s relentless barrage of instructions .
“He is a very passionate manager, demanding,” says Chilwell. ‘When he’s animated his passion comes across and we totally respect it, if anything it helps us.
Chelsea thrives under Thomas Tuchel, who Chilwell labels as ‘passionate’ and ‘demanding’
‘It’s a good thing. There are so many young talented players on this squad and he is very excited and eager to help all of us. ‘
Although he started in just one of Tuchel’s first six Premier League games, Chilwell has squeezed his way back to Marcos Alonso and Emerson.
‘He pushes me every day, he’s hard on me, but that’s what I want. It sounds like music to my ears when I hear every day the things he thinks I can work on.
“The fact that he has taken a lot of time to help gives me confidence that he wants me to improve.
Chilwell insists Chelsea’s goal is to win trophies ‘year after year’, including the league
‘He sees the potential in us as a team and as individuals. He sees a vision and an end goal of where he thinks we can be in the next two to three, three to four years: winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cups.
He wants us to win things every season and he honestly believes he can.
‘I came to Chelsea to win trophies like this. The rest of the team the same. It’s a big one, it’s one we want to win.
‘We want to win things year after year. We want to win trophies, we want to win the competition. That is our goal. ‘
That’s always the goal at Chelsea.