The £7m signing of Bebe was probably the strangest transfer United have ever made, with him joining us from Vitória de Guimarães just five weeks after moving to them from a third tier Portuguese side. He had been offered around Europe for £125,000 that summer but there were no takers, so in the end he joined Vitória on a free transfer because his third tier club, Estrela do Amadora, were in severe financial difficulties and unable to pay his wages. Then he landed Jorge Mendes as an agent and we signed him without Sir Alex Ferguson seeing him play. This was the first (and probably last) time that Ferguson had bought a player without even seeing footage of him.
Bebe had a loan spell at Beşiktaş last season but played just 4 games after suffering a cruciate ligament injury when playing for Portugal U-21s. He is now enjoying himself at Rio Ave, who he joined on loan in January, but believes he left Portugal for United too early in his career.
“I think I left my country too early,” Bebe told MaisFutebol. “I hadn’t played in the league and it was too soon to go to Manchester Unitef, surrounded by superstars. I should have stayed at least one season in Guimarães. But it was all of a sudden, unexpected. I was at practice and president of Victoria called me. He told me he had to go quickly to the home of agent Jorge Mendes. When I got there, Jorge greeted me, smiled and gave me the news: ‘want to go to Manchester United? Yes? So you’re going.’ I didn’t believe it. I thought he was kidding me, honestly. I don’t know if the transfer price was fair or not, but I know that Ferguson trusted the information that was passed on about me.”
When Bebe first joined United some journalists reported that people at Carrington had mocked the signing of Bebe, claiming he looked like ‘a competition winner’ at training. But for Bebe it was all a dream come true.
“It’s amazing to remember it all,” he continued. “The people at the club helped me a lot and I learned a lot. The first week was tough. I was very embarrassed and didn’t talk to anyone. I just wanted to be in my corner, watching. I still remember the days when I was in the House of Gaiato and dreamed of being one of those players.”
So where did it all go wrong? Unbelievably, as the worst player in the squad, Bebe felt like he had made it after signing for United and didn’t think he needed to work hard anymore.
“I thought: I’m here, I’ve earned it, I don’t have to push myself every day,” he admitted. “The fault was mine alone, then when I tried to go the right way it was too late. If I could go back, I would change a lot in my behavior. I joked around at Manchester United but everyone else took everything very seriously. They were unhappy with me and rightly so.”