Ramires Santos do Nascimento had always sensed this might be his moment. Chelsea have the distraction of a European Cup final to come but, with the Brazilian among their banned players for the showpiece in Munich, this occasion drew the focus. "For me, this is the game of the season," he had said. "To play at Wembley is to fulfil a dream. If we can win on top of that, the day will stay with me for the rest of my life." He now boasts memories in which to revel.

The more famous figures in this Chelsea team tend to hog the headlines in contests such as this, with a fourth FA Cup final in six seasons no exception. Didier Drogba plundered as he always does in these parts. Frank Lampard's delivery from the centre split apart befuddled opponents when they were in the ascendant. When Liverpool finally stirred, there were John Terry and, most staggeringly, Petr Cech to preserve their lead. Those stalwarts have long since proved their star quality, with this club's recent successes built on their feats.

Yet in Ramires Chelsea have plucked from Portugal a player who already feels key to their future. There is little fuss to the former Benfica midfielder's game as diligently he seeks to dominate the flank, all quiet efficiency and leggy energy. He was rewarded with this game's opening goal and, having made his first obvious mistake after 74 minutes, it still felt surprising that Roberto di Matteo should sacrifice him for Raul Meireles soon afterwards. He departed with an almost apologetic clap to the hordes in blue, though their appreciation was booming.

This was a reminder of what will be missed in Munich. Chelsea will be depleted in their second European Cup final, diminished by the absence of Terry, their captain, and their best right-back, Branislav Ivanovic. Meireles, too, has played a significant role in their European campaign and would have been a contender to start at the Allianz Arena. Yet, of the quartet of absentees, there is a persuasive argument that it will be the lack of Ramires's dynamism that will be felt keenest of all.

The 25-year-old is this team's energy, the player Michael Essien was before serious ligament and cartilage injuries took the edge off his game. Mikel John Obi has offered much needed solidity to this midfield, while Lampard still boasts the capacity to burst forward in support of an attack even if he is more selective with his forays upfield these days. The group needed legs to threaten at one end and snuff out danger at the other, and Ramires supplies plenty. The Brazilian arrived at Chelsea with the nickname "The Blue Kenyan" from his time with Cruzeiro. The Premier League suits him and it still seems baffling that the club chose to announce he had signed a new five-year contract during the fall-out from André Villas-Boas's dismissal in March, a strange case of burying good news on a bad news day.

It was José Enrique who suffered at his hands here. The Spaniard had been caught out of position by Jay Spearing's sloppy mistake in possession 11 minutes in, Juan Mata stealing the ball and slipping Ramires away down the channel. The sprint was too much for the full-back, who gasped in pursuit as Ramires eased passage into the penalty area and spat a shot at goal that flew far too easily for comfort inside José Reina's near-post via the goalkeeper's left glove. That was Ramires' 11th goal of a productive season. He was never noted as a prolific scorer, but his game continues to develop and he is timing his rewards beautifully these days. He scored Chelsea's third against Tottenham Hotspur in this arena in the semi-final, a goal that knocked the stuffing from Spurs' attempts at revival.

Then there was Camp Nou and an apparently hopeless situation as half-time approached, 2-0 down and depleted with Terry's dismissal, only for the midfielder-turned-right-back to summon an 80-yard charge and collect Lampard's delicious pass before lobbing Víctor Valdés with glorious precision.

His other eye-catching contributions came in defence. There were timely clearances, hacked away from inside his box, and when José Enrique thought he was liberated down the flank with space opening up in front of him, it was the Brazilian who hounded him down and drew the foul and free-kick to relieve the pressure.

Chelsea supporters have found reassurance in the blur of blue as he scuttles from box to box. Juan Mata may walk away with the player of the season award, but Ramires will push him close. Regardless, he can bask in his "game of the season" from now on in.