By ANTONY KASTRINAKIS
FRANK LAMPARD is glad he had to wait so long to win the Champions League.
Before his joy in Munich, Lamps had only tasted misery — FOUR semi-final defeats plus the agonising penalty shootout loss to Manchester United in the 2008 final.
After parading the cup around the Allianz Arena, Lampard beamed: “I’m pleased we haven’t won it before, because it feels even more special.
“That might sound stupid but to wait so long and to do it the way we did with the season we’ve had, the spirit in the team — it’s amazing.
“I’ve been here 11 years and I’ve been waiting for this baby for a long time.
“I’ve never been so emotional in a game. Players were crying, tears in their eyes. Football can do that to people. It’s the best footballing night of my life — the hour we spent on the pitch with the fans afterwards.”
Lampard, an £11million signing from West Ham in 2001, has been there throughout the Roman Abramovich era.
During that time, the Blues have lifted three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two Carling Cups.
But never the top prize as Monaco, Liverpool (twice) and Barcelona overcame Chelsea in Champions League semi-finals and United triumphed on that dramatic night in Moscow four years ago.
England midfielder Lamps, 33, added: “Right now it feels like the crowning moment of my career, yeah.
“The feeling of not winning it for so long almost makes it feel better. No one wants to have sad moments and miss out on it a lot.
“But the circumstances of the season, everything from where we were to where we are now, the circumstances of tonight makes it feel absolutely massive.
“You can see that in the celebrations.”
Chelsea were written off as has-beens under previous boss Andre Villas-Boas, who constantly dropped Lampard.
AVB got the chop in March though and Lampard finished the season with 16 goals, the FA Cup and the Champions League.
He added: “If you had asked me three months ago if we would win this competition, I would have laughed. But we have done.
“The key players have been there a long time and we want to win, we are determined to win, in the dressing room we have a tough group.
“We struggled earlier in the season, confidence was low, but there is a real determination here, and when times are hard, we dig in.
“Teams are always changing, but why should we stop now? We want to carry on, move forwards.
“We’ve won the FA Cup and now the Champions League and the determination and spirit we have shown, it’s been fantastic.”
Lampard admitted the amazing turnaround that started in the 4-1 win against Napoli under new boss Roberto di Matteo had left the players thinking their name was on the Champions League trophy.
They rode their luck against Barcelona in the semis and beat Bayern Munich in their own backyard on Saturday — and Lampard insisted credit must be given to Di Matteo.
He said: “We weren’t playing good football. We were playing it across the back, we were playing slow, we weren’t playing at a good level.
“To become organised and dig in against Barcelona particularly and again tonight, Robbie’s got to take a lot of credit and it shows an amazing spirit and group we’ve got here.
“I’ve never seen a focus in a team like what we travelled here with.
“We carried on from Barcelona. You get a feeling your name is on the cup. I hate to say that before because you look a fool when it doesn’t happen.
“But we’ve had enough bad luck in this competition over the years that people can’t just point at luck this year.
“We’ve suffered. We’ve come to their home stadium, we’ve defended for our lives.
“People threw their bodies in the way of the ball.
“I admit when we were trailing 1-0 with about a minute left, I wasn’t so sure.
“But once it went to penalties, I thought there was no way we were going to lose. I thought, ‘We are going to win this’. It wasn’t going to be a repeat of Moscow, we couldn’t have stood that again.”
Didier Drogba was the match winner in the penalty shootout with what could be his final kick in a Chelsea shirt.
Lampard said: “People talk about whether this is his last game for Chelsea, but he has been an absolute hero for this club.
“People talk about Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney, the great strikers, but he is right up there.
“People that score in finals and in the big games, he is right up there.”
Some branded Chelsea lucky to have even reached the Champions League final this season, let alone win it. Lampard added: “Maybe we’ve made our own luck. There are other times when we deserved more than we’ve got.
“We dug in and we didn’t play beautiful football but we played spirited football that no one can undermine.”
Lamps ribbed the cocksure Germans who bragged about winning the trophy on penalties and were left with egg on their faces as Chelsea beat them at their own game.
The midfielder took a crucial kick to keep Chelsea in the hunt as he reduced the shootout deficit to 3-2.
Then Petr Cech saved from Ivica Olic, Ashley Cole made it 3-3, Cech denied Bastian Schweinsteiger and Drogba rolled in the winner.
Lampard said: “I had a quiet confidence. Manuel Neuer looks massive in goal. He’s a fantastic keeper but Petr Cech has re-announced himself as the best in the world.”
Cech also saved Arjen Robben’s penalty during extra time — and went the right way for all of Bayern’s six spot-kicks.
Lamps added: “When you have confidence in your keeper it doesn’t half help with penalty shootouts.
“We worked on them in training, on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s a confidence issue.
“I remember taking loads in the World Cup in Germany and then missing against Portugal. You can over-think it.
“Here, I felt we were going to win on penalties which is strange against a German team.
“I heard a couple of quotes from them where they felt quite confident and I like to see that because that can come back to bite you on the bum.”