The decision made by Sir Alex Ferguson to bring the previously unknown Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, commonly known by his nickname Bebé, to Manchester United has come under a lot of scrutiny by the press, but has Fergie unearthed another gem?
The Bebé transfer was an interesting and peculiar one right from the start. He began his career with amateur side Loures before signing for Portuguese second division side Estrela da Amadora in the summer of 2009. Estrela struggled to pay his wages and looked to unload him to dutch giants PSV in May 2010, however Bebé’s former agent Goncalo Reis revealed that PSV had turned down the offer as ”they did not know him”. He was then snapped up by Vitória de Guimarães in the summer of 2010 on a free transfer. He signed a five-year contract with Vitória witha £7.4 million release clause, but didn’t play a single competitive match for the Portuguese side before United pounced.
After recommendations from former assistant at Old Trafford, Carlos Queiroz, and after an impressive pre-season with Vitória, where he scored five goals in six games, Sir Alex Ferguson began to show interest in the 20-year-old, and on the 11th of August 2010 Manchester United signed Bebé for an undisclosed fee thought to be in the region of £7.4 million. When the press got word of this deal a media circus ensued. Surely Fergie wouldn’t pay over the odds for a player he has never seen play before, a player recommended to him just one day before the deal went through by a former member of staff, a player who spent most of his childhood in a homeless shelter and whose only previous notable footballing experience before 2009 was appearing for amateur club Loures on occasion and the CAIS team in the European Street Football Festival in the Bosnian town of Foca. Or did the United boss know something we didn’t? The rumour mill went into overdrive and stories began to leak. A former coach at Bebé’s old club Estrela, Jorge Paxaio, revealed that in January this year Bebé was in the shop window for as little as £125,000 in attempt to save the club from going into liquidation. He explained:
”Last season we had no money at all. We were trying to transfer Bebé to other clubs. We had to raise money desperately. We told everyone in England and in Europe: “For 150,000 Euros you can have him”. We couldn’t get anybody interested. Nobody trusted him. None of the clubs were interested because he had never played at a high level. I was surprised with the sudden way it happened with United. I was hoping he would move to a bigger club in Portugal or to a medium-sized club in Europe. I didn’t expect Manchester United.”
Bebé’s former agent Goncalo Reis was, like most in the footballing world, equally shocked at how the deal progressed. He went on to say:
”A scout from United could have contacted me or the club last season. There was no secret. But I understand that the United scout just saw certain games in Portugal and only realised Bebé was a great player when he saw some pre-season games involving Guimaraes.”