Roman Abramovich's aspiration was to assemble a new team capable of stylish and thrilling glory, but it turned out that an obstinate streak was the crucial quality. In a campaign that was conceived as a time of revolution, it was the old guard's refusal to be marginalised that enabled the pursuit of Abramovich's ultimate prize.
The Russian has acted as though wealth alone would be the answer to his cravings. He has hired expensive managers and funded the transfer wishes of a series of advisers, and the splurges established Chelsea as an elite club. Reaching this second Champions League final in four years is principally the work of the same core group of players, though: Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba. All but the suspended Terry will likely begin tonight's final at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich, just as they did in Moscow against Manchester United in 2008.
Successive Chelsea managers were brought to the club to radically alter the squad and move beyond the grinding, relentless manner of the Jose Mourinho era. If the club is to win its first European Cup, the achievement will still owe something fundamental to the work of the Portuguese manager. The traits he left behind have been as immovable as the individuals.
Phil Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti and Andre-Villas Boas were all encouraged to move on members of the old guard, including the iconic Terry, but none was able to do so decisively. In Avram Grant and Roberto Di Matteo, it has been managers considered little more than stop-gap appointments who have guided Chelsea to Champions League finals. A stubborn defiance is instinctive in imposing characters such as Drogba, Terry and Lampard, but it has also been capable of a rousing tenacity.
The last meaningful act of Villas Boas's spell in charge was to leave Lampard and Cole on the bench in the first-leg of the round of 16 match against Napoli. Chelsea lost 3-1 and the manager was sacked 11 days later. Di Matteo, his assistant, stayed up all night to devise a game plan for the second leg against Napoli at Stamford Bridge and, as if reclaiming their status, Drogba, Terry and Lampard all scored before Branislav Ivanovic converted the winning goal in extra-time.
Senior figures have been revitalised by Di Matteo, in part because there is no clash of egos with such an unassuming man. It would be misleading to consider him as a remote, insignificant presence in the same way as the enigmatic Grant. The squad has responded to Di Matteo's more defensively-secure tactics and an approach to man-management that is not encumbered by long-term planning. Only if the Italian is appointed on a permanent basis will he have the responsibility of refreshing the squad; for now he is an unthreatening influence.
The entire squad is acting as though free of any outward concerns. Drogba is out of contract in the summer, but the 34-year-old has been performing as though rejuvenated. In the second-leg of the semi-final against Barcelona, and after scoring in the first, the Ivorian was disciplined in his defensive work following Terry's dismissal. That kind of selflessness was not always evident among the players while Villas Boas was in charge.
Having spent so extravagantly that Fernando Torres, a £50m striker, is likely to start on the bench, it should be disquieting for Chelsea to consider themselves underdogs. But the role suits a group of players who have been relying on persistence and tenacity. Bayern are at home, and the expectation is that the crowd will be swelled by locals who have been resourceful in sourcing their tickets. Yet the circumstances do not diminish Chelsea's prospects.
Against Barcelona, and again in the FA Cup final victory over Liverpool, Chelsea have been most adept at defending in numbers, then striking on the counter-attack using both flanks. The strategy was crucial to Borussia Dortmund's 5-2 victory over Bayern in the German cup final last weekend, which Di Matteo attended.
This is expected to be the final effort for Drogba, Malouda, Salomon Kalou, perhaps even Essien, Paulo Ferreira and Jose Bosingwa. Di Matteo, too, knows that Fabio Capello's representatives are lobbying for him to be appointed next season. The sense of a last stand, the closing of an era, might yet be a powerful enough incentive.