Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho paid tribute to his 'heroes' after seeing them concede the Premiership title to Manchester United following Sunday's 1-1 draw with Arsenal.
The Blues produced a spirited second-half comeback as Michael Essien levelled Gilberto Silva's opener and, despite being reduced to ten men when Khalid Boulahrouz was sent off, they came close to earning the victory which would have prolonged the title race.
Mourinho was without Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko, Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole for the Emirates Stadium clash, but refused to be downhearted after Chelsea relinquished their two-year hold on the Premiership title.
"I'm very proud of my players. Normally when a team has a lot of success and loses a championship it's lack of motivation, not the same spirit or ambition, but it was exactly the opposite," he said.
"My team was brilliant. I have to say that maybe I'm prouder today than when I was champion.
"My players are heroes. All season, against absolutely everything, they did brilliantly.
"The season was magnificent and I think today is a game to remember. It showed how big Chelsea players are and I couldn't be happier with the way it finished for us."
Mourinho offered his congratulations to Manchester United but stopped short of calling Sir Alex Ferguson's side the best team in the Premiership.
He added: "I have to congratulate the champions, the players, the manager, the fans, the board - all the people that help them be champions."