An Ancelotti disciple with 18 trophies: The story behind Fonseca’s right-hand man Ferreira

By Oliver Fisher -

It is no longer a secret that Paulo Fonseca looks likely to be AC Milan’s next head coach, and he is likely to bring his trusted assistant and friend Paulo Ferreira with him.

It has been quite a tiring second half of the season, at least with regards to Stefano Pioli’s position as the boss and his successor. However, it seems the management are now set on Fonseca after an extensive evaluation process, and they will look to confirm him as the next coach shortly.

Multiple sources are claiming that Fonseca is expected to sign a two-year deal with Milan worth €2.5m net per season. Additionally, Milan will have the option of another year on his contract and this would come with a pay increase.

They are handing over the keys of the project to an intriguing coach, and it will be interesting to see issues tackled such as which striker arrives. One thing seems certain: Fonseca will surround himself with a staff he trusts, and that begins with Ferreira.

An illustrious career

Few footballers can boast Paulo Ferreira’s playing career. He was born in Cascais, a district of Lisbon District, and began his career in the Segunda Liga with G.D. Estoril Praia, progressing up the ranks there.

Ferreira signed with Vitória de Setúbal ahead of the 2000–01 season and then took the big leap to FC Porto in the summer of 2002, signed by then-coach José Mourinho who converted him from right midfielder to right-back.

He only missed two league games over his two-year stint with Porto and became one of Mourinho’s most reliable performers as the club won back-to-back league titles. He also started the 2003 UEFA Cup final against Celtic in Seville (a 3–2 win) and the 2004 UEFA Champions League final win against AS Monaco.

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Mourinho would depart for Chelsea in the summer of 2004 and he insisted that Ferreira join him. He signed for the Blues that June for €20m, uniting not only with Mourinho but with his compatriot Ricardo Carvalho too, helping Chelsea win the Premier League title after a half-century drought.

Ferreira ended up slowly slipping down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge even after signing a five-year deal in 2008, but then when Carlo Ancelotti arrived he started featuring more regularly again, helping them win a league and FA Cup double in 2009-10.

After Ancelotti’s sacking and his replacement with André Villas-Boas, Ferreira found it hard to get minutes with a shift to using a younger squad. That led to his contract not being renewed, and the Portuguese left upon its expiration in 2013.

His final appearance for the Blues was on 19 May 2013 when he came on as a late substitute in a win over Everton. Amid emotional speeches – including one from Frank Lampard – he announced he was retiring from professional football. Over nine seasons, he appeared in 217 official games for Chelsea.

Ferreira earned 62 caps for the Portugal national team between 2002 and 2010, playing at two European Championships and two World Cups, and finishing as runner-up at Euro 2004 too.

Fonseca’s trusted man

After retiring from football, Ferreira stayed around at Chelsea and he worked for them as an ambassador and as an assistant coach helping some players out on loan.

He left west London in July 2022 and decided to try something new, but it was not until one year later that he was appointed assistant manager at Lille, joining his compatriot Paulo Fonseca’s staff just as he was about to begin his second season in charge.

Drawing on his valuable aforementioned experience as a defender who played at the highest level, it is likely Fonseca brought him aboard to try and improve Lille’s defensive record.

They had allowed 44 goals in 34 league games in the season before his arrival, 2022-23, and they close the last campaign with 10 less goals conceded.

In an interview with the official website of Ligue 1, Ferreira spoke a bit about his relationship with Fonseca and why he decided to take on the challenge with Les Dogues.

“After almost 20 years at Chelsea, half of which I spent working as a coach, I returned to Portugal to spend more time with my family and disconnect a little,” he said.

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“It had been about a year since I was in Portugal when I received a call from Paulo Fonseca, who offered me to join his staff to replace Jorge Maciel, one of his assistants (who left to coach Valenciennes FC at the end of last season). It made me happy that Paulo thought of me. It was a small surprise but came at a good time because I was ready for a new challenge.

“I’ve known him and followed his work for quite some time now. Paulo started with small clubs in the lower divisions in Portugal, steadily progressing as he climbed the ranks. I highly value his personality, so I was thrilled when I received his call. Today, it’s a pleasure to work in Lille alongside someone like Paulo.

“I am here to assist Paulo and bring my experience as a former high-level player to the group. As a former defender, I particularly focus on the defensive aspect, where I try to share my knowledge and experience. In any case, I am eager to learn because this is new for me; it is my first real experience as an assistant.”

Familiar inspiration

Given the time they spent together at Porto and at Chelsea, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that Ferriera feels great esteem for his countryman and the influence that he has had on him,

“This is obviously the most influential coach in my career. He is the one for whom I played the most, between Porto and Chelsea. He is the one who allowed me to sign in England.

“I don’t know if I can tell you much about José; his results speak for themselves and show how great a manager he is. He excels in all coaching areas: individually, collectively, in training, during matches, and in the psychological aspect, of course.

“He knows how to connect with a player and how to get the most out of them. José also knows how to deal with the media. He has been very important to me. I have been fortunate to work with him for so many years and to win so many prestigious trophies with him (the UEFA Champions League in 2004, two English Premier League titles, two Portuguese league titles, etc.). When we see each other again, there is inevitably this bond between us.”

He also worked with Ancelotti, who last night won the seventh European Cup of his incredible career (two as a player and five as a coach) when Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Wembley.

“What stands out about him is his human side. Carlo was a great player, part of the renowned Milan team of the late 1980s and early 1990s, so he knows what players think and what they want… He gives love to his players,” he said.

“It was truly great to work with him, both for his qualities on the field and for this human aspect, this personal relationship. I recall a moment at Bayern Munich when he substituted Franck Ribéry.

“Ribéry was very upset, but when he walked past Carlo, Carlo hugged him and kissed him. Carlo experienced these moments as a player, so he knows the little things that make a difference on a human level.”

With 18 trophies to his name as a player and experience under the likes of Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Andrè Villas-Boas and Rafa Benitez, it feels like there is little that Ferreira hasn’t seen.

Italian football will be a new venture for him, but he and Fonseca – who has already had a spell in Serie A – can help each other through their new experience together at Milan.

Tags AC Milan Paulo Ferreira Paulo Fonseca


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  1. He either has two many trophies or not enough. I’m not sure. Either way he can’t be good because he’s being hired by the American owners!!! LOL

  2. Should’ve been Ancelotti’s 6th CL last night if we hadn’t ballsed up 2005. As for Ferreira, sorting out our defense should be our #1 priority- hope he can help do it.

    1. The referee was lousy in 2005, should have been 4-0 at halftime… Also the penalty for Gerrard was weird but maybe I’m not objective here.

      Also in 2006 we got robbed by the referee in semifinals against Barcelona when Sheva scored and it was discarded by the referee for a non existent foul on Puyol. We would have destroyed Arsenal in final that year.

      1. Ahhhh the memory serves you well. I do distinctly recall that ridiculous call vs Barca. Was adjudged a foul on Puyol smh. If I recalled corectly I think Puyol slipped making it “look” like Sheva pushed him down (to be fair I thought so too on first look but the angle on the field the ref should have easily seen the distance between the two).
        Wasn’t the first time Barca had weird calls go their way especially when they ay us. They feared us (or should I say Uefalona feared us) when we played them. The other time was calling a penalty foul on Nesta before the corner cross came in. Never in the history of football have I ever seen that call ever before that incident and after.

        Also yes that Gattuso pen was ‘weird’. Dubious, very very dubious.

        1. In 2005 before the game I had this weird but very strong feeling Liverpool were going to win. Then when we were 3-0 up at halftime I thought “wow, I got that one wrong”….
          That night was written in the stars for the scousers and their irritating “You’ll never walk alone” garbage.

          1. That Istanbul final was the weirdest game I’ve seen for Milan. That Dudek save in Extra time was when I realized we were going to lose even before the pens. It was just one of those things u can’t explain what happened. up to this day I’m still agast

        2. Bro!!! I remember that penalty before the corner was taken so well!! Couldn’t believe it lol.
          When we drew Barca a lot between that 2011- 2014 era of im not mistaken, I always knew we’re starting the game 1 nil down cause some sort of penalty will be made for them.
          One of my friends supports Barca and we used to watch those games together. I used to get so bitter. That team was so good on its own, I never understood why they got such shady calls from refs cause they were good enough without them. But that penalty before the corner, my lord you just took me back😂

  3. Why not, we need all the help we can get for our horrible defence.

    I think with current set of CBs we’re set. Should Hummels or Varane be open to move on a free and for reasonable wage, welcome but no need to spend additional money for another.

    Rather buy two DM’s because right now we have non. Relying on one DM for whole season? Good luck. And Adli is not one.

  4. I wonder if this is possible:
    1. Use CDK deal to bring Scalvini to Milan(15m operation)
    2. Use Saelemakers deal to bring Calafiori to Milan (~25M operation)
    3. Use Pobega deal to bring Bourgiono (~35 M operation)
    4. 35M can bring Zirkzee
    5. 40 M for Maartsen of dortmund (left back as a reliable sub for Theo)
    5. Total 150M

      1. I bought drinks for guys at half time,

        Same guys mocked me after the game. If not for 2007 win, I might never have recovered from the PTSD of the 2005 final.

        For years I blamed Ancelloti for not reading the game in those crazy 6mins is

    1. You are delusional.

      CDK + 15 min for Scalvini ? Really ? Atalanta have to pay 26/27 mil for CDK with bonuses and they value Scalvini at 70+. How is that 15 milion operation ?

      Cairo won’t let Buongiorno for less than 45 milions.

      And why do we need 3 out of 4 most perspective italian CB’s. You really think one of them will warm bench ?

      Zrikzee has bay out clause in his contract worth 40 milions. Why do you think he’ll go for less than that ?

      And its not Martseen. My god too much FM.

      Milan will probably go for Miranda , Varane and Hummels cause those are free agents.

      Zrikzee maybe for attack but as time passes less likely.

      Casadei wouldn’t be bad option on loan deal for MF.

    2. Option 1 and 2 is not possible. They have clause in the loan contract so their future is not in our hand.

      Option no.3 is slightly possible but dunno if Cairo will entertain the offer.

      Number 4 is impossible. 40m is the clause, and if Bayern want him back (they will only need to spend 25m due to 40% clause) we can only depend on the players preference.

      Number 5, I strongly doubt we will spend 40m for Theo back up. Maybe if Theo is going to be sold so we need new starting LB.

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