Ross Barkley celebrated the second major honour of his career when Chelsea were crowned Europa League winners in Baku and the England midfielder claimed that winning regular silverware was the primary reason he joined the club 18 months ago.
After watching last term’s FA Cup final win over Manchester United as an unused substitute, the 25-year-old featured for the final 15 minutes in Azerbaijan. It was a reflection of his contribution to our European campaign, in which goals home and away against Malmo set us on the way in the knockout round back in February.
‘It feels great,’ he admitted.
‘We’ve worked hard for it all season and the game went perfectly for us. Days like this are why I came to this club because these are memories made for life and hopefully there are many more to come.’
There was plenty of discussion in the build-up to the final about the availability of N’Golo Kante and Barkley was the one to miss out on a starting spot following the Frenchman’s recovery from an ankle injury. However, he confessed there was no difference in his preparation and he was just glad to be able to help the team when called upon.
‘To be part of a final is special, whether you start or come off the bench, so you just have to do what you can to help win the game,’ Barkley said. ‘When I came on, it was already 4-1 so we knew we just had to see the game out.
‘You have to prepare for every game as if you’re starting but N’Golo was unbelievable for us. When he picked up the injury in training it looked serious so for him to play 90 minutes in a final is just incredible. As a team, we played a brilliant game and came away with what we wanted, which was the trophy.’
Barkley will now join up with Gareth Southgate’s England squad in preparation for their Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands next week and he hopes the success of English sides in continental club competitions will stand the Three Lions in good stead for their trip to Portugal.
‘Of course it helps to have players involved who have tasted success because that feeling you get after achieving something is very special. We also have two English sides in the Champions League final so for England, it helps us prepare for our semi-final and hopefully we can come back home with some more silverware.’
With a first full Chelsea season under his belt, Barkley was eager to praise the achievements of the side this campaign. He was particularly pleased with how the players have adapted to the stylistic changes imposed by Maurizio Sarri, while still challenging for honours and achieving our targets.
‘I’ve enjoyed it,’ he said when reflecting on 2018/19. ‘There has been a bit of a transformation in terms of our style of play but ultimately we’ve come away with silverware. We were unfortunate in the Carabao Cup final against Man City but we’ve qualified for the Champions League through our league finish and now we’ve won a European trophy so you have to look at the season in a positive way.’