Bebé’s fantastic goal against Arouca on Sunday has once again propelled the young Portuguese striker into the media spotlight. Signed by Manchester United as a 20-year-old in the summer of 2010, he has spent much of his early career under the watchful eye of the media.
Bebé’s signing was a perfect story for the English press at the time. Abandoned by his family at an early age, he overcame all obstacles to play football for one of the most storied clubs in the world. Hollywood could not have written a better story.
But the wheels came off quite quickly for Bebé at Old Trafford. Then manager Sir Alex Ferguson decided to keep him on the squad. The much-hyped youngster looked far from convincing in the few opportunities he received with the club during the 2010-11 season.
In a very candid interview with Portuguese football website Maisfutebol in April 2013, Bebé admitted that he did not work hard enough in those early days at Old Trafford.
“The most experienced players on the team would say that I did not try hard enough. It is true. I thought, ‘I have made it, I do not have to give it my all every day.’ I am the only one to blame. I fooled around too much. When I tried to make up for it, it was too late. If I could go back, I would change a lot.”
Doubts began to emerge about the player’s quality. And soon after suspicions emerged about the deal as well. In May 2012, the transfer was investigated by the Portuguese authorities over suspicion of missing funds. Meanwhile, Bebé was having a hard time breaking into United’s squad.
In the summer of 2011, he was loaned to Turkish club Beşiktaş for the season. Soon after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury while playing with the Portugal U-21 squad forcing him to miss most of the season. In April 2012, he was suspended by the Turkish club after breaking a curfew.
Last season, Bebé was part of United’s pre-season tour. However, he did not see any action with the senior club when the season began. In January 2013, he was loaned to Portuguese club Rio Ave in order to receive more playing time.
At Rio Ave, he managed just one goal in seventeen League matches for the club. At times he was relegated to the wing. This past summer, he was loaned out for the third time in four seasons. This time to Paços de Ferreira.
Bebé’s volley against Sporting Braga in January was the first time many United fans had heard from him this season. Sunday’s goal against Arouca made headlines in the English press as well. And rightfully so.
Bebé back-heeled a pass to himself before firing one past Arouca goalkeeper Cássio. He now has seven goals in 21 League matches this season. That includes six goals in the last nine matches.
But this time around the headlines are very different, with the words ‘flop’ and ‘misfit’ being the most common adjectives to describe the now 23-year-old. And still short on praise.
It has not always been easy. Paços de Ferreira is currently on their third manager of the season. But the win against Arouca means that the club is now four points clear of the relegation zone, where they have been for most of the season.
Bebé has demonstrated this season that he does have the raw talent that must have alerted Carlos Queiroz and United scouts back in 2010. His finishing has improved and as a result he is scoring goals.
Although he is far from a finished product, Bebé has gone a long way in disproving the theory that he does not have what it takes. His recent production, as modest as it may be, proves that Bebé has a future as a footballer.