The Blues coach worked closely with the 20-year-old full-back during last season’s loan spell at Wigan but has been taken aback by his progress
Chelsea legend Paulo Ferreira says he has been blown away by Reece James’ rapid rate of development over the past year.
James, 20, spent last season on loan at Championship outfit Wigan Athletic, who narrowly avoided relegation to League One thanks to a strong finish to their campaign.
In his role as a loan technical coach at Chelsea, Ferreira worked closely James throughout the Londoner’s spell at the DW Stadium and was hugely impressed with how the youngster coped with such a stressful situation.
However, even the Portuguese has been taken aback by the way in which James has gone to another level since returning to Stamford Bridge, where he racked up 26 appearances in all competitions for the Blues before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“He is a top player and a fantastic boy,” Ferreira told Goal. “For me, it was a pleasure to work with him last season when he was at Wigan.
“You could see the potential of the player and I thought he could come back to the club and do well.
“But if you ask me if I thought he would be doing what he has been doing, then I wouldn’t have believed you!
“But I am happy he surprised me. He is a fantastic boy, he is easy to work with and what he has been doing this season has been fantastic.
“He is really good going forward, with amazing crosses. You could see that at Wigan. But he has also improved a lot defensively.
“He is still a young player and learning. He has lots to improve on and too improve, you need minutes, to be tested and to make mistakes.
“But clearly he is going in the right direction.”
Ferreira, of course, knows a thing or two about making a big impact at Chelsea.
The undoubted highlight of his Chelsea career came in 2012, when he helped a team led by Roberto Di Matteo upset Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to win the club’s first European Cup.
The Blues had trailed to a goal from Thomas Muller but Didier Drogba equalised at the end of normal time before netting the decisive penalty in a dramatic shootout.
“It was a fantastic night for us with good memories,” enthused Ferreira, who retired in 2013. “Everything went perfectly for us. It was my best feeling in football.
“We were playing against a top side and it was the best victory of my career, especially because we beat them in their own stadium. That made it even more special for us.
“We went to the hotel afterwards to celebrate and we were so happy. We fully deserved everything we got and it is great to have those kind of memories with my team-mates and friends.”