From Chelsea to the A-League via Dulwich Hill

In the lead up to the 2014-15 season, join us as we count down the best 15 players in the A-League, as voted for by Goal and Sportal.com.au journalists and writers

Profile

Fabio Ferreira's story is one of the more unbelievable ones in the history of the A-League. Having come up through the youth ranks of Portuguese powerhouse club Sporting Lisbon, Ferreira was signed by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea as a 16-year-old and spent four years in London without making a senior appearance for the Blues.

Having failed to make his mark in England, Ferreira spent the next couple of seasons in the lower tiers of Portuguese football before deciding to move to Sydney in 2012 where he has some family. The powerful winger signed for Dulwich Hill in the NSW second division but quickly caught the eye and was snapped up by Adelaide United in August 2012.

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While Ferreira was considered a bit of a risk due to his lack of profile and senior experience, he quickly impressed Reds fans and pundits alike with his direct style of play, speed and three goals in the space of a month towards the end of 2012. The Portuguese signed a two-year extension midway through the season and last term improved further. Ferreira played 24 matches, starting 23 and finished equal top-scorer at Adelaide with nine goals, while also adding five assists from the right wing.

Strengths

Ferreira's football can be summed up in one word - power. The 25-year-old can beat most opponents in a straight sprint, while he is also strong enough to hold off defenders with his back to goal.

A rarity in Josep Gombau's Adelaide United, Ferreira is not exactly a ball-playing forward, who likes getting involved in intricate passing moves or tight areas. Ferreira has the skill to link up with the likes of Isaias and Sergio Cirio but would much prefer to receive the ball in space on the right where he can drive towards goal with the ball at his feet.

The man from Barreiro in the Setubal District of Portugal - just south of Lisbon - also packs a rocket in his right boot and Ferreira's A-League highlights reel includes plenty of stunning strikes from the edge or just outside the penalty area. Last season, one of Adelaide's regular tactics was to switch the ball with a long diagonal pass in an attempt to isolate Ferreira and his marker. At times this became a bit predictable, so it will be interesting to see if Gombau comes up with something different in 2014-15.

Defining moment

There were a number of Adelaide's games last season that were effectively decided by Ferreira. In the Reds' opening fixture against Perth Glory, Ferreira set up the first goal and scored the last in a 3-1 triumph, while in round 18 he played a role in both first-half goals - setting up the first and notching the second himself - in a 3-0 away win at Sydney FC. The winger regularly starts games well with three of his nine goals opening the scoring last term.

But it was in the Reds' 5-1 thrashing of Wellington Phoenix in round 21 that Ferreira arguably had his best game in 2013-14. After Jeronimo Neumann had given Gombau's side the lead at Coopers Stadium with a cracking shot, Ferreira created the second, getting to the byline with a characteristic powerful run and cutting the ball back for Sergio Cirio to score.

The Portuguese gave Phoenix full-backs Reece Caira and Josh Brindell-South a torrid time that day in February, regularly finding pockets of space behind them to receive the ball and surge forward. Ferreira made it 3-0 just prior to the hour mark when he was again left free, crunching his shot into the far top corner past Glen Moss, while he notched another assist just a few minutes later, picking out Jeronimo at the penalty spot with a fine cross, which the Argentine striker turned home with a sharp volley.

Read more: No. 10 - Tomi Juric