Ferreira out to impress as Chelsea step into the sun

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The Independent Online

Record signings, a chief executive pushing for world domination and the most self-confident manager since Brian Clough; there is no shortage of people at Chelsea Football Club with something to prove this season. High on the list is Paulo Ferreira, the £13.2m full-back dropped by Portugal after only one match of Euro 2004, and replaced at his former club by a more accomplished-looking player signed for a tiny fraction of his fee.

Record signings, a chief executive pushing for world domination and the most self-confident manager since Brian Clough; there is no shortage of people at Chelsea Football Club with something to prove this season. High on the list is Paulo Ferreira, the £13.2m full-back dropped by Portugal after only one match of Euro 2004, and replaced at his former club by a more accomplished-looking player signed for a tiny fraction of his fee.

Ferreira, to his dismay, was in the right place at the wrong time last month. The right-back's place, to be precise, when in the host country's opening match against Greece he undermined both a fine season's work for the European champions Porto and a nation's expectations with the error responsible for giving the eventual, unlikely winners of the tournament their first goal. Greece, their self-belief immediately inflated, won the game 2-1 and Ferreira became one of three sacrificial victims as Portugal improved thereafter.

Not until the final did he return, as a substitute for the injured Miguel, only to suffer the desperate disappointment of a second defeat to the Greeks, whose right-back Giorgios Seitaridis earned a place in most selections for a team of the tournament and was quickly lined up to replace him at Porto. Ferreira was picked in that position for a "Flops XI" named by the increasingly influential World Soccer magazine.

"I started to play but we didn't win the first game so the coach made some changes," Ferreira said yesterday. "Unfortunately for me I was one of them. The team started to win and I had to wait for my opportunity and had to respect that." His argument is that Jose Mourinho's judgement and Roman Abramovich's money took him where he is today on the basis of rather more than one poor performance for his country, whom he first represented against England at Villa Park in September 2002.

"If I'm sitting here now, it's not because of what I've done for the national team but for my club," he said. "In Portugal I play 58 or 60 games a season. Anyone who knows me knows the player I am."

Nobody knows him better than Mourinho and both men are delighted to continue working together after two hugely successful seasons at Porto. Ferreira says of his manager: "He's a good coach and easy to work with. He's worked with big coaches like (Louis) Van Gaal and Bobby Robson and studied to learn more. Sometimes he can be angry. If he doesn't like what he sees, he says it. When he came from a small club, you couldn't imagine Porto would win the Uefa Cup in his first year. Then to win the Champions' League and two championships in Portugal, that's difficult to repeat."

Hence the new challenge for both of them, accepted with alacrity, that starts in today's friendly against Celtic. Their supporters have sour memories of that Uefa Cup final, in 2003, when their manager Martin O'Neill accused Porto of conning the referee with their diving.

This year's meeting is the first of 11 matches in the Champions World series, 10 of them featuring British clubs, and will be played in front of an estimated crowd of 50,000 in the heat of the midday sun which has been so uncomfortable for Chelsea over the past two days. Any mad dogs and the few Englishmen in the squad would have preferred to stay indoors.

"The match is at the worst time but only four players will have to play the full 90 minutes and we must look at the positive things," Mourinho said. "The result is not the most important thing. I want to win league matches, not friendly matches."

Neither of Chelsea's most recent signings, the £24m Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba or the £8m Portuguese midfielder Tiago Mendes, are fit to take part. John Terry starts as the club's new captain, with his England team-mate Frank Lampard his deputy.

Celtic, meanwhile, can only look on as enviously as just about every other club in the world at their opponents' purchasing power. O'Neill - who will miss the first two matches of the tour, if not all four, because of his wife's illness - is strapped for cash as he attempts to replace Henrik Larsson, who has departed for Barcelona after scoring 237 goals in 311 games. As O'Neill says: "How do you do that?"

John Hartson and Chris Sutton will try to fill the void today, and extend the Scottish champions' excellent record against Premiership opposition. On Monday they meet Liverpool in Hartford, Connecticut, hoping to repeat a previous Uefa Cup success, and 48 hours later they play Manchester United, who begin their tour tomorrow, against Bayern Munich in Chicago.

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