Paulo Ferreira spent this weekend with Chelsea fans in Washington DC in the United States. There he watched the match against Liverpool with the supporters, as well as being interviewed by the TV crew covering the action Stateside, as can be seen in the photo below.
Our former player, who made 217 appearances for the Blues and helped win back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, has also reflected on his Chelsea career...
Our former defender, who still works at the club as a loan player technical coach and ambassador, looks back on his nine-year playing career for Chelsea and remembers the challenge of testing himself against some of the best players in the world, as well as picking out some of the most memorable matches he was involved in.
Tell us about how you came to sign for Chelsea?
I remember I was at Euro 2004 with the national team and that was the time Jose Mourinho moved to Chelsea. I knew he was leaving Porto and I’d had a few clubs showing an interest in me because of the season I’d had with Porto. Jose came to Chelsea, we had the same agent and they called me and told me Jose wanted me to come with him to the club, so it was just a question of agreeing the deal, and that was it.
At that time Chelsea had Glen Johnson and Mario Melchiot, so I didn’t know if they would want someone else. There were other top clubs in Spain and Germany who wanted me but when Jose wanted me things just went from there.
What were your immediate impressions of the club?
The Premier League was a league I wanted to play in, I remember speaking to my family and saying if there was a chance to go abroad that’s where I would love to go because of the full stadiums, the atmosphere and the intensity of the game. In my first season at Porto we came to play against Charlton just before the season and I could feel the atmosphere. Then the following season we played against Man United in the Champions League which was fantastic.
I didn’t know too much about the club but I knew there were top players here, and I knew there was a new owner who wanted to invest and build the club. I remember Chelsea reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League against Monaco in 2004, and I felt if they reached the final it would have been more difficult for my Porto team, so you could see how much quality they had.
I knew with the new owner they would try to build a team to fight for the Premier League. When I arrived I found a good club. We were still training at Harlington because they were building the training ground so I saw it all grow, which was amazing. When we moved to Cobham you could see the club wanted to go to a different level and compete with the best clubs in the world.
What about Stamford Bridge itself?
It was really good. I remember the first game we had was the Gianfranco Zola testimonial, it was a full stadium and a good atmosphere. I’d never been to Stamford Bridge so it was great to see what it looked like and it was nice to see how the fans respected you and treated you.
What do you remember about the backing the team received home and away? Any games stand out?
Home or away, the support was always great, which is important for the team because in bad moments they can push you and lift you up. For me, coming from abroad, a different league and different atmosphere, it was good to see the passion of the supporters and for the nine years I played for Chelsea, whether we won or lost, they would always push you to keep going.
The Champions League matches against Barcelona and Liverpool at that time were top games, the ones everybody wanted to play in. There was always a different type of atmosphere because it was the Champions League and you were going up against top players. They were fantastic games to play in.
Of all the managers you worked under here, who had the biggest influence on you, your game or your career?
Definitely Jose. With all due respect, I learnt from all of the managers I played under and it was a pleasure to work with them, but obviously Jose was the one who wanted me here and he knew what I could offer the team. He trusted me and I learnt a lot from him.
It was fantastic to work with him at Porto and then come here together. There was extra pressure for players like myself and Ricardo Carvalho in a way, not just because of the big amount of the transfer fee, but because when you come with a manager, other players might think you’re only playing because of him, so you have to show why he wanted you here. You have to deliver and make them realise the manager didn’t want you just because you’re a nice person but for what you can bring to the team.
Tell us about some of the most memorable matches you were involved in for Chelsea...
The first FA Cup final at the new Wembley against Man United in 2007. I think I played a good game, I was at right-back against Cristiano Ronaldo. It was a special match, a wonderful atmosphere and we won in extra-time through Didier’s goal.
For me, to play against such a talented player as Cristiano was a big test. He was flying that season. Okay, it was right at the end of a long, hard season, with so many games, so he probably wasn’t that fresh, but he was such a dangerous player who could decide a game at any time so we had to make sure he didn’t have any opportunities. The whole team did really well.
I scored two goals for Chelsea but I couldn’t really celebrate them properly as they were equalisers in cup games we were losing. The first one was at Stamford Bridge against Colchester. For set-pieces I would never go into the box, I would always stay back, but on this occasion just before we went out Jose told me he wanted me to go up for corners because he had a feeling I was going to score. He said he didn’t want me to go for the first ball, but to just be around the penalty spot. We were losing 1-0 and from our first corner there was a deflection at the front post, the ball came to me and I scored, but we just wanted to get the ball back because we were losing and we wanted to get the second goal straight away, so I didn't celebrate properly.
The second one was against Blackburn in the League Cup [pictured below]. We were losing 3-2 and we had a free-kick right at the end of the game. I was standing outside the box with Benni McCarthy and I just thought that it was our last chance so I would go forward. The free-kick came in, I was at the back post, Paul Robinson just missed the punch, I controlled it and scored and everyone jumped on me. I couldn’t jump around as I was on the floor and we ended up losing on penalties.
Which team-mates were you closest to during your time here? Are you still in touch with them now?
At first it was the Portuguese players like Carvalho and Tiago, and then later Hilario, who I had five months with at Porto before I left. We had a great group and we would always do stuff together like paintballing, going out for dinner or Christmas parties.
You had the English group, the French players and then the Portuguese, along with Petr Cech and Arjen Robben. We used to say it was Portugual and the Rest of the World. I’m always in touch with Petr, he lives near me and our kids are in the same school. Whenever we have the chance we go for coffee or dinner. Sometimes in pre-season when our families are away we go out together, we came to Chelsea at the same time and always spent a lot of time together so that was nice.
I saw Carvalho recently at an exhibition game so it was nice to see him. Didier sends messages on social media. When Lamps moved to Derby we texted and I also see JT and Essien. The good thing is that we might not see each other all the time but when we do it’s great. I remember I went to see Mario Pasalic when he was on loan at Monaco. Claude Makelele was the sporting director there and we sat talking for ages, obviously first about Mario but also about the old days. It’s always nice to catch up because it was a fantastic group. It was the same when I was at Porto, I’m still in touch with a lot of players from that side.
Were there any opposition teams or players you particularly disliked facing and, if so, why?
I just enjoyed the challenge of playing against the best players. Of course you make a few mistakes here or there but I think I did well in most situations. As a full-back I played against Giggs, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Bale, Messi so what can you say? Top players with skill, pace and strength. They were all a big challenge and you knew you couldn’t sleep for one second because at that level they punish you. You don’t need motivation to play against those players, you’re ready to be at your maximum level of concentration because you can be fantastic for 89 minutes but if you switch off for one minute all your hard work is undone. They make you grow up as a player.
I was with Ronaldinho in China last year and it was nice to talk a little bit. He was probably the most technically gifted and I played against him at his peak, which was a huge challenge for me.
What about opposition fans, what were the most intimidating stadiums to play at?
There are always stadiums where you know it will be hard, like Barcelona, where there are 90,000 people, or Liverpool, where the atmosphere is always good for the big games. Old Trafford was never easy but I always just tried to block it all out and focus on the game, because if you get distracted by the fans and what people are saying then it becomes harder. Sometimes when there is a break in play you might have a little look around, but you can do that when you arrive at the stadium or when you go out to warm up. As soon as the game kicked off I was completely focused.
How do you look back on your time at Chelsea overall? Is there anything you would change or do differently?
No I don’t think so. I had a fantastic career. It could maybe have been better in terms of game time, I had so many options to move abroad and go to fantastic clubs, but I always believed in my ability and I always felt I could be useful here, and my family were happy and settled here.
When you start reaching the later part of your career you want your family to be happy. I could have gone elsewhere but maybe they wouldn’t have been so happy, which would have been a difficult situation. I think I showed people that when they needed me in difficult moments I was there. I was always ready, always working hard in training, I never missed a session because I wanted to make sure I was ready and when you are not playing games you lose condition. That’s why I had to keep pushing myself to be in the maximum condition for when the manager needed me, which happened in a few matches.
What have you made of the season so far?
It’s been fantastic so far. It’s a new manager and a different system. He brought Jorginho with him, who he felt was a key player in that position for him at Napoli, and I think the players are enjoying it. They are happy and they have freedom to express themselves.
It’s still early in the season but it’s always important to start well. We are winning games, we’re close to Man City and Liverpool and it’s important to stay there. We are going in the right direction at the moment. Drawing games can happen and the other teams will drop points as well because it’s a long and hard season.