The signing by Manchester United of an unknown Portugese 2008 Homeless World Cup international has left the football world stunned by it’s audacity with fans scratching their heads asking who the hell is Bebe and where did he come from. In a revealing article on Portugal’s portugoal.net, United fans get an opportunity of discovering what makes Sir Alex Fergusons new signing tick. “The lowdown on new Manchester United capture Bebe – A fairytale move for the last of the street footballers” is one of the few romantic stories remaining in a mercenary world of football.
He has gone from an upbringing on the streets and in a children’s orphanage to one of the greatest football stages in the world. In terms of football fairytales it does not get much better than this. So who is Manchester United’s latest Portuguese signing Bebe?
Tiago Manuel Dias Correia is the son of Cape Verdean parents, like Nani. And just like the Portugal and Manchester United star, Bebe, as he has been known ever since his older brother called him that rather than his name in the cot, was brought up in a ramshackle dormitory town on the outskirts of Lisbon.
Born in Cacem, some of his early childhood was spent in the Casa do Gaiato de Santo Antão do Tojal in nearby Loures, a charitable institution for children whose parents are unable to provide for their offspring. It was while playing for Loures junior team that he was spotted by Estrela da Amadora.
Joining a club that was recently in the top flight did not signal the end of Bebe’s difficulties. Just two years ago he represented Portugal in the Homeless World Cup. But after being promoted to the first team, Bebe needed just one season (26 matches, 4 goals) to catch the attention of Portugal’s bigger clubs. He signed for Vitoria Guimaraes.
It was during pre season that Bebe began to hit the headlines. Five goals in six games and a string of man of the match displays marked down the forward as one to watch in the upcoming season. Yet it was still a huge surprise to see Manchester United splash out a reported 10 million euros for a player who has only played in the Portuguese third tier.
Jorge Paixao, the current manager of Mafra was Bebe’s coach at Estrela da Amadora and says his tough upbringing is the secret behind his rare abilities. “He’s a player who is the fruit of street football” Paixao told Portuguese radio station Antena 1. “Nowadays players are schooled in the clubs, but he has none of this.
“He’s an old school player. He learned to play in the street and has that natural creativity, an irreverence, and that makes all the difference. He improvises very well, because he has quality, and he has a set of characteristics that are difficult to find in a single footballer. He’s tall, he’s good in the air, he’s technically gifted and he’s very fast.”
The poor kid from Cacem will now have the chance to showcase those skills at Old Trafford where 70,000 fans could soon be singing his name to complete the fairytale. Chief Executive David Gill sees the deal as further proof of United’s investment in raw potential. “He’s a player we’ve been following but he really came on the scene in the last week or so” Gill told MUTV. “We looked at him, spoke to a number of people about him and then went out and secured the deal.
“It’s exciting. He’s a potential player, and a lot of Manchester United’s focus is about getting players who have the potential and then getting them under the great coaching of Alex, Mick, Rene and other people. He can fulfill that potential with Manchester United and I think it’s going to be exciting. Let’s hope it works out.”
Bebe’s arrival hinges on a successful medical later this week, and Gill moved quickly to play down suggestions the 20 year old will be immediately sent out on loan. Instead, Bebe will be given the chance to assimilate and prove himself at United.
“He’ll join up and be part of the first team squad this season” said Gill. “I think he’ll probably stay this year. He is a boy who has to learn English and integrate into Manchester United, and he’s really come from nowhere in a lot of respects. I think he’ll benefit from having day to day coaching from some of the best coaches in the world in the Manchester United way. He’ll certainly be with us this season and you never know, we’ll see what happens.”
As for Bebe himself, he obviously appreciates the chance he has been given. “I am very happy, I had the dream of playing for a major club one day. That dream has come true” he said “football can change lives, very much.”
Can such praise from the likes of portugoal.net for an unknown 20 year old be justified?