Farewell to Ferreira, a paragon of professionalism & loyalty

Posted by Phil Lythell

Olly Greenwood/AFP/Getty ImagesStamford Bridge fans honoured Paulo Ferreira when Chelsea celebrated their Europa League title in May.

As June turns into July and player contracts begin to expire, it is time to say goodbye to a player who spent a trophy-laden nine years at Chelsea Football Club: Paulo Ferreira.

The 34-year-old will formally cut his ties with the club on Monday, ending an association that has lasted for almost a decade and has coincided with the most successful period in the Blues' 108-year history. His influence during that time might pale in comparison with the herculean feats of Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba, but his on-field contributions, his professional demeanour and his loyalty to the cause all deserve recognition.

When Ferreira was signed in summer 2004, he came with a burgeoning reputation, having just won the Champions League with FC Porto under Chelsea's newly appointed manager, Jose Mourinho. The Blues handed over 13 million pounds for his signature, a hefty sum for a right back at the time, and much was expected from this floppy-haired Portuguese with the Premier League title a realistic target for the forthcoming campaign.

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First impressions were not good. In the opening game of Euro 2004 between hosts Portugal and tournament outsiders Greece, Ferreira gave the ball away in a dangerous position to Giorgos Karagounis, who ran through to give his side a shocking lead that paved the way for a famous 2-1 win. Greece would go on to repeat that feat in the final by beating Portugal 1-0 to become the unlikeliest of European champions.

For Ferreira, the tournament was a disaster. After that opening game, he did not play a single minute until coming on for the injured Miguel in the final, and many in England were quietly chuckling that Chelsea had splurged a huge amount on a dud talent.

Those chuckles were soon stifled during the 2004-05 season, when Ferreira proved himself to be a dependable and positionally astute right back as Chelsea romped to their first title in 50 years.

He remained as Mourinho's first-choice right back that season until injury curtailed his involvement in the final weeks. Ferreira was a regular part of the defence that conceded a miserly 15 goals -- a Premier League record -- as Chelsea turned style into substance and silverware. He was also able to see off the competition of Glen Johnson, who many believed was destined to be a regular at club and international level until his youthful errors were proved to be more ingrained than previously thought.

Ferreira supplied solidity while still possessing the ability to time his runs down the flank in order to whip in a dangerous cross. It was clear why Mourinho trusted him so implicitly; he was his kind of player -- defender first, attacker second.

That first year was certainly the apogee of Ferreira's Chelsea career as he struggled to command a permanent first-team spot with William Gallas often being preferred at right back the following season. Though he was a familiar face making regular if sporadic appearances, he became a victim of his own dependability.

With a more progressive style of play yearned for by Roman Abramovich, football-playing, risk-taking right backs were sought to give the team extra verve. Thus, Ferreira was perceived as the solid understudy to a series of signings seen as more adventurous.

The likes of Juliano Belletti and Jose Bosingwa came and went, making their own significant contributions without ever solving what had become Chelsea's problem position. In the meantime, Ferreira found himself shuttled around the back four, playing in every position along the line. Despite lacking a physical presence or any discernible aerial ability, he was often press-ganged into central defence.

On the whole, he did a decent, dependable job in that role, with the only real catastrophe coming against Liverpool at Anfield in January 2007, when injuries forced him to partner Michael Essien in a 2-0 defeat. There were other tortuous moments, such as being tormented by a rediscovered Gareth Bale as Carlo Ancelotti's side entered the home straight of the 2009-10 double-winning campaign.

But by and large, his tactical brain made up for any deficiencies in match sharpness wherever he was deployed. His physical demeanour meant that he would never be a rock in the guise of John Terry or Marcel Desailly, but after his initial teething problems it was never a cause for concern when the situation demanded Ferreira be deployed at centre back. He was a quick study and that engendered a vital versatility.

In his last couple of seasons, Ferreira's involvement was marginal, yet there was still time for one last display of reliability when he was parachuted in to play at right back in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Benfica in March 2012. His excellent performance, in which he helped to nullify the threats posed by Nicolas Gaitan and Pablo Aimar, was a testament to his professional dedication in making sure that he was fully prepared physically and mentally for just such a match despite having been barely featured at all that campaign.

While that might have been his last involvement in the Champions League, the clean sheet that he helped to forge laid the foundations for that glorious night in Munich two months later. His duty had been done.

During the last few years, Ferreira has been a player much overlooked by those outside of the club. He has even been maligned for a perceived lack of ambition, with some unfairly painting him as a mercenary simply happy to sit on the bench and collect his wages.

Those at Chelsea know that could not be further from the truth, with his display against Benfica just one of several pieces of evidence in his favour. Ferreira was the model of an uncomplaining professional in an era when players' egos have gone off the scale and divas dominate the pitch and the back pages. Always prepared to fulfill whatever role was asked of him, he seized his opportunities without questioning the decision and always applied himself to the maximum of his ability.

There will never be a statue built for Paulo Ferreira outside of Stamford Bridge or any other future home, but his dedication and loyalty to Chelsea Football Club should always be held up as an example. Farewell, Paulo, and the best of luck in whatever you choose to do in your life after football.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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