Sir Alex Ferguson became synonymous with “success” during his reign at the helm of Manchester United. The legendary Scotsman turned the Red Devils into a nightmare both domestically and on the European stage. The great coach very, very rarely made mistakes, especially when it came to his transfers, but one of them stands out… and Fergie himself frankly admits that he failed and broke his principles.
In the summer of 2010, a Portuguese striker known as Bebe arrived at Old Trafford. A surprising deal for a player who doesn’t even have a video of his appearances on YouTube.
The winger had exactly 27 appearances and 4 goals in professional football before United counted on him for just over £7 million in Vitoria Guimarães. At the same time, in the second division, and shortly before signing with the English giant, Bebe is preparing with the national team of Portugal, which should take part in the World Cup for the homeless. Before that, he already played for the same team, but at a European festival.
Well, after all, the footballer is not going to the World Cup, but to the Theater of Dreams.
And as an absolute precedent – Ferguson never watched him play. Even on video. And he fully trusts the judgment of his assistant Carlos Queiroz on this deal.
The move to United is the absolute pinnacle of Bebe’s career, for whom nothing in this world comes easily. He grew up in a small town called Loures, and at the age of 12 he was sent to an orphanage because his parents could not take care of him. It was there that he fell in love with the game of football.
His coach at Estrella Amadora, Jorge Paixão, describes his game as “the epitome of street football and a style that cannot be learned at a club“. He is adamant that no one plays like Bebe. According to him, he can make the difference.
In fact, the Portuguese was sold to Manchester without playing a single match for Vitoria after his transfer from Estrella…
“Everything was a shock for me too. All week I thought it was some kind of joke. I thought someone was playing a joke on me. I didn’t find what was happening normal,” says the player himself.
Yes, but everything is actually like that and it seems to be completely normal. The youngster, who until recently played in the second division of Portugal, suddenly finds himself next to Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.
“I know that Real (Madrid) and Benfica were looking at him. It was one of those decisions that are made instantly and spontaneously,” Alex Ferguson himself commented on the deal. The Scot explains that he acted instinctively and trusted the club’s scouts.
In the end, however, the blind game is not profitable for Fergie and United. The spontaneous purchase made a total of 7 appearances for the English side, all of which came in his first season, in which he also scored two goals.
The start is promising, he gradually gets minutes and even starts in the Champions League, where he scored against Bursaspor in his only game. However, everything goes to hell in a match against Wolverhampton, where Bebe tries to cross from the right flank and sends the ball into touch on the other side of the pitch… An incident that earns him a lot of ridicule and from which he never recovers.
Loans in Portugal and Turkey followed, and in 2014 the youngster, who didn’t even speak English when transferred to the Island, left the homeland of football forever. To sign a four-year contract with Benfica, where, however, he played even less – he recorded only six games for the Lisbon “eagles”, without scoring. He himself admits that during his time in Manchester he did not have the right set-up and everything happened too quickly for him.
“I never took what was happening seriously enough. I said to myself – ‘Okay, I’m here, I’m doing okay and I don’t have to spend too much time every day. It was all my fault,” recalls the player himself years later, adding that he literally ended up off the street at one of the biggest teams in the world.
Twelve years later, Bebe’s transfer to United remains one of the most shocking in European football. And what happens to him today?
He seems to have found a home base at Madrid’s Rayo Vallecano, whose team he has been with since 2018, having previously spent another season at Vallecas, but on loan from Benfica. He has nearly 150 games for the capital team, with which he won two promotions in La Liga.
He is also a proud Cape Verde national with 6 caps and 3 goals so far. And on Saturday, he will face Barcelona at Camp Nou in the first round of the new season in La Liga.
Sir Alex broke his principles for him and made a mistake, but more than a decade later, Bebe continues to do what he loves most – playing football.