Bebe: Doomed From the Start

 Bebe with his typical forlorn look (image via  Wikimedia Commons )

Bebe with his typical forlorn look (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Farewell to Bebe - one of Sir Alex Ferguson's worst ever signings.

The much maligned Bebe closed the book on three nightmarish seasons with United when he signed for Benfica last week. His time at Old Trafford saw him carve his name alongside other memorable flops like Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Massimo Taibi and David Bellion. More recently, we learned that Manchester United could have signed World Cup star James Rodriguez for only £5 million in the summer of 2010. Instead, Sir Alex Ferguson passed and acquired Bebe for £7.4 million a few weeks later. By the way, Rodriguez was just sold to Real Madrid for £63 million. That one is going to hurt for a long time...

Especially since it's clear that, in retrospect, Bebe's Manchester United career was doomed from the start. By his own admission, Bebe wasn't ready for life at Old Trafford and didn't take his career seriously. Indeed, within three weeks of his arrival, he was already labeled a bust amid reports that he couldn't even keep up with the reserves and that he had poor fundamentals. For some reason, Ferguson (who never saw Bebe play before sanctioning the transfer - instead, he signed Bebe based almost solely on the advice of his former assistant, Carlos Queiroz) stubbornly kept Bebe at Old Trafford during the 2010-11 season rather than loan him out (or allow him stay with his former club for a year). [UPDATE: Queiroz has denied telling Ferguson to sign Bebe, saying in November that he had known nothing of the player. I guess no one wants credit for this transfer...] While Bebe had some good moments (like his poacher's goal against Bursaspor in the Champions League and his "was it a cross or a shot?" goal against Wolves in the Carling Cup), he had more moments like this:

On the bright side, the people sitting in the stands sure got a workout, didn't they?

It's a shame, since he had such a great back-story. Indeed, Bebe's bio could have easily been turned into an inspiring, Oscar-bait movie starring a romantic comedy veteran looking to reinvent herself as a serious actress (it's not too late for you, Kate Hudson!). For those who don't know, Bebe (full name: Tiago Manuel Dias Correia) was abandoned by his parents as a child and grew up in a children's shelter in Lisbon. He would have represented Portugal at the Homeless World Cup if he had been discovered a little earlier. Instead, Bebe signed with Portuguese third-division club Estrela da Amadora and immediately became the club's star player. In 2010, five weeks after he moved to the Portuguese First Division, Manchester United came calling and Bebe was unveiled alongside fellow summer signings Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling.

Bebe could yet turn out well, and a move to Portugal is probably best for him. He spent last season on loan with Paços de Ferreira of the Portuguese Primeira Liga and finished seventh in the league in goals scored. With his team facing relegation, Bebe scored a key goal in the relegation playoff to keep his squad in the top flight. In fact, he was the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and was even in contention for a World Cup roster spot. For a player who was clearly a fish-out-of-water during his time in Manchester, going home might be just what he needs to jump-start his career.

And hey, he'll be playing Champions League football next season. Maybe he'll give van Gaal and his old teammates something to think about as they watch on TV.

Victor Li

chicago, il