Paulo Ferreira’s 18-year association with Chelsea Football Club has come to an end as he leaves his role of loan player technical coach.

Our former defender had been working with our loan players since his own playing career ended in 2013, alongside studying for his coaching badges and acting as a club ambassador. Prior to that, he made 217 Chelsea appearances over a nine-year period, winning 11 major honours in the process including three Premier League titles, the Europa League and the Champions League.

Posting on social media today, the 43-year-old wrote: 'I have decided to move back to Portugal to be closer to my family and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the club and the fans who during the last 18 years made Stamford Bridge a second home for me.

'I arrived in London in 2004 as a young man with big dreams and had the opportunity to make most of them come true thanks to the incredible players, managers and staff who helped me grow as a person and professional. After my retirement in 2013 I took on a role in the Loan Player Technical Department and I really appreciate the opportunity I was given by the club to work alongside Eddie Newton, Carlo Cudicini and the rest of the team in this fascinating project.

'I am now going to take some time off and then look at opportunities to continue to work in the football industry closer to my wife and kids. Once a blue, always a blue. Thank you all and hope to see you soon!'

As a player, Ferreira became a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge due to his dedicated approach to the game and unswerving loyalty to the Blues. He arrived in west London as a European champion in 2004, one of the stars of Jose Mourinho’s Porto side that had swept all before them.

In that first campaign in English football, alongside his former club-mate and Portuguese national team colleague Ricardo Carvalho, he played his part in winning the League Cup as well as our first league title in 50 years. That team success was built on a bedrock of defensive strength, with a Premier League record of just 15 goals conceded that still stands to this day.

More trophies followed over the coming years, with Ferreira’s dependability and versatility proving key attributes as he deputised at left-back and even centre-half, as well as operating in his more familiar right full-back position.

Fittingly for such an unassuming character, his standout individual moments came as part of collective glories, such as shackling Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2006/07 FA Cup final, the first to be played at the new Wembley, or nullifying Gareth Bale in various clashes with Tottenham.

Scoring the second of his two goals for the club in a League Cup win at Blackburn in 2009 was also a highlight, the moment made extra special as it came not long after he had returned from a six-month lay-off with a cruciate ligament injury. Later that season, he played a crucially disciplined defensive role in a win at Old Trafford that took us back to the top of the table, a key result in our only club Double. He also featured in the FA Cup semi-final win over Aston Villa.

Ferreira made the last of his 217 Chelsea appearances on the final day of the 2012/13 season, after which team-mate Frank Lampard led tributes on the pitch by labelling his retiring team-mate ‘the best professional’. He swiftly returned to Cobham, passing on his vast experience in a mentoring and coaching role with our players out on loan.

After nine years as a player followed by nine years of service behind the scenes, Ferreira now departs with our thanks and very best wishes.