Ferrari played for Italy at the Summer Olympics in 2000 and 2004, winning Bronze at the latter edition of the tournament. He also made 11 full international appearances for his country between 2002 and 2004, featuring in the Italian squad that took part at Euro 2004.
Matteo Ferrari is the Algeria-born son of an Italian petroleum engineer and a mother originally from Guinea. His father worked in various countries throughout Africa because of his vocation. His father died in 1993 when Matteo was 14.
He grew up in Ferrara and has a brother who was a football player. Ferrari and Venezuelan model Aída Yéspica re-united in December 2009. They have a son named Aron, born in 2008.
Ferrari started his career at SPAL in 1995, and he can play as left-back or centreback. It has all the rigmarole of youth teams, from young students: the coach of the time, Luigi Pasetti, employed him as a central striker and the player scored 37 goals in the league before switching back to defense. F.C. Internazionale Milano brought him to their youth system, later farming him to Genoa C.F.C. (in co-ownership), U.S. Lecce (in co-ownership) and A.S. Bari (loan).
He made his Serie A debut on 29 August 1999, A.C. Fiorentina 1–0 A.S. Bari where Ferrari played the full match.
He went back to Inter in summer 2000, making 27 appearances in all competition, but failed to stay, this time sold to Parma AC in co-ownership deal, for 9 billion lire (€4,648,112). That season Parma also signed Sébastien Frey from Internazionale for 40 billion lire (€20,658,275; cash plus Sérgio Conceição) and sold Gianluigi Buffon and Lilian Thuram to Juventus.
A permanent transfer was made because of his good performance in May 2002, for €5.7 million. That season, Inter also sent Adriano and Vratislav Greško to Parma (in co-ownership deal for €8.8 million and definite deal for €16 million), and signed Fabio Cannavaro (undisclosed) and Matías Almeyda (for €16 million) from the Emilia side. In three seasons as a starter for Parma, Ferrari appeared in 81 league matches and scored 3 goals. At Parma, Ferrari led his team win their first National convenor.
On 31 July 2004, he joined A.S. Roma for €7.25 million fee. He also signed a contract worth €2.965 million annually in gross. (Part of the fee paid via Damiano Ferronetti going in the opposite direction and the loan of Cesare Bovo on the same day), as a replacement of Walter Samuel who went to Real Madrid. He failed to give the performances he had delivered in Parma in his first season with the capital club.
Ferrari came back to Roma at the beginning of the season 2006–07 as Roma finished 2nd in the previous season and qualified for 2006–07 UEFA Champions League group stage (benefited due to the scandal) and was first choice central-back partnered with Philippe Mexès, while Cristian Chivu as left back or central back and Christian Panucci as the primary right-back, with Marco Cassetti as replacement. Roma also sent experienced Samuel Kuffour out on loan and sold Leandro Cufré. Ferrari played 27 time in Serie A, 24 of them were starters, helping Roma to achieve second place in Serie A and winning the Coppa Italia. His erratic performance and poor security that has given in defense earned him the nickname Svirgolone as he could not show the same brilliant game during his time at Parma.
Despite facing a transfer ban blocking Roma from signing players, on 24 August 2005, the Giallorossi loaned him to UEFA Champions League competitor Everton for €200,000, with an option to purchase for €5.5 million.
It took a few games for him to get accustomed to the Premiership, but Ferrari showed plenty of quality when he finally got going for Everton. Unfortunately that was brought to an end in the 1–0 win over Arsenal, when he sustained nerve damage to his hamstring which kept him out of action. He returned to the Everton side for the FA Cup 4th round replay defeat against Chelsea. In April 2006 Everton FC manager David Moyes was talking about the summer transfer campaign on evertonfc.com and said that based on player performance he had already decided which players he wanted to keep.
"Players are always playing for their future in some way, but we know exactly what they can do and I don't think what happens in the last month of the season will make a big difference to what I have decided."
In May 2006, Moyes told evertonfc.com, the official site of Everton FC, that Ferrari loan would not be extended.
As his contract with Roma expired at the end of 2007–08 Serie A season, Clubs like AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Fiorentina, Genoa and Manchester City were linked to Ferrari. Eventually, Ferrari decided to sign with Genoa for the 2008–09 Serie A season on a free transfer. Following his move to Genoa, Ferrari made his debut on the opening game of the season on 31 August 2008 in a 1–0 loss against Catania. During his time at Genoa, Ferrari had disciplinary issues with 6 yellow card and 2 red card. Ferrari received a red card in a 1–1 draw against Catania (the club he played against on his debut on a Genoa shirt) on 25 January 2009 after a second bookable offence. He received a one match ban and made his return against Palermo in a 1–0 win on 1 February 2009. Ferrari received another after another second bookable offence in a 3–1 win over Sampdoria on 3 May 2009. He also received a one ban match and made his return against Chievo in a 2–2 draw on 17 May 2009. At Genoa, Ferrari played under coach Gian Piero Gasperini was a regular player in defense.
After one season at Genoa, Turkish side Beşiktaş J.K. were interested in signing him. Eventually on 7 July 2009, Genoa confirmed on its official website that Ferrari transferred to Turkish club Beşiktaş for €4.5 million. He signed a 4-year contract. His salary rises to €2.5 million per season, net of tax. On the opening day of the Turkish League, Ferrari made his debut for Beşiktas in a 1–1 draw against İstanbul B.B. on 7 August 2009. On 27 October 2009, Ferrari received a straight red card in a 2–1 win over Kasımpaşa SK. In September 2009, Ferrari had been one of the under-performing players for Besiktas and was expected to leave in the January transfer window. However, Ferrari didn't leave and remained at the club. In the 2010–11 season, Ferrari's play with the first team squad was limited under manager Bernd Schuster and also Ferrari suffered a serious injury in the match against Bursaspor and was absent for two months. He was then released on 21 August 2011. Following his release, Besiktas said the club filed a lawsuit against Ferrari at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, saying the defender left in violation of his contract and the club was seeking €7.75 million from Ferrari in damages. Ferrari said he had filed a case against Besiktas with CAS, saying he was owed several months' salary (€7,437,252.43) .
Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted the request from Ferrari and rejected the counter-claim from Beşiktaş. The court ordered Beşiktaş to pay Ferrari €7,256,641.95 for wage and medical expenses.
Following time away from Beşiktaş, Ferrari began training with Monza in Lega Pro Prima Divisione from 12 November 2011, until the end of December. Ferrari then proceeded to train with Inter Milan, the club where he began his football career.
While training with Inter Milan, the Montreal Impact organization invited Ferrari to the team's preseason training camp in Los Angeles, on 14 February 2012. During his tryout, Ferrari and the Impact organization began negotiating contractual terms, so that Ferrari can join the club for its inaugural 2012 MLS season. On 1 March 2012, the Impact formally announced that he had signed with the club for the 2012 season. On 11 May 2013, in a game against Real Salt Lake, Ferrari scored an own goal in the 7th minute to give RSL an early 1–0 lead. However, he redeemed himself by scoring a 93rd-minute winner in an eventual 3–2 win. That would turn out to be the only goal Ferrari scored for the Impact.
On 31 October 2014 Ferrari's option was declined on his contract.
Although he was also eligible to represent Algeria at international level, Ferrari chose to play for the Italy national football team. He also played for their U15, U16, U17, U18, U20, and U21 team, winning the 2000 UEFA European Under-21 Championship with the Italy U21 side.
Ferrari played at two Olympic Games with the Italy U23 side, in 2000 and in 2004.
In 2000, he only played in Italy's quarter-final defeat to Spain. In 2004, he was one of the three over-age players permitted for Italy. He played in all of their matches as they lost in the semi-finals to eventual champions Argentina, then won the Bronze Medal match against Iraq.
Ferrari's first senior call-up was against Serbia and Montenegro (as FR Yugoslavia), but he did not play. In the same year, he made his full debut in a 1–1 friendly home draw against Turkey on 20 November 2002. He played his first competitive international for Italy in a Euro 2004 qualifying match against Azerbaijan, replacing Alessandro Nesta for the last 14 minutes. His last cap for Italy was a friendly against Tunisia, on 30 May 2004. He was called up for Euro 2004 by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, but did not play in the tournament; Italy suffered a group-stage elimination, following a three-way five-point tie with Denmark and Sweden. Ferrari later received a single call-up from new coach Marcello Lippi in September, but did not play.Parma F.C.
Coppa Italia: 2001–02
Coppa Italia: 2006–07, 2007–08
Supercoppa Italiana: 2007
Turkish Cup: 2010–11
Canadian Championship: 2013, 2014