Throwback : When Manchester United spent 10 million Euros on homeless kid who starred for Cape Verde at AFCON 2023


FOOTBALL Throwback : When Manchester United spent 10 million Euros on homeless kid who starred for Cape Verde at AFCON 2023

Mark Kinyanjui 21:00 - 08.02.2024

When Man United paid 10 million Euros for a homeless kid who never even had a wikipedia and ended up becoming an AFCON star for Cape Verde

Cape Verde took a lot of people by surprise at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations as they reached the quarterfinals after blowing all teams on their way up to that point.

Although they were eliminated by South Africa, they were certainly one of the most enjoyable teams to watch, playing a swashbuckling style of football that blew minds away.

There were alot of impressive individual displays, and most notably among them was Bebe, who scored one goal in four appearances, but whose ability to take men on helped inspire the West African nation to get that far.

But how did Bebe end up becoming an influential figure for that country?

Well, when you mention his name, there's a good chance football fans who followed football closely in 2010 will know exactly who you're talking about. 

He's the forward manager Sir Alex Ferguson signed for Manchester United without ever having seen him play, not even on video, paying 10 million dollars for his services

Compared to transfers of today, it does not look like alot of money, but it was actually United’s biggest transfer of the summer.

Infact, it was more money than they had paid for Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic or Ji Sung Park. It was actually a whole 2.5 million dollars more than Chicharito had been signed for two months earlier, but there was just one problem. No one had any idea who this guy was.

He did not even have a single clip playing on YouTube and did not even have a Wikipedia page, but how he got there was a story that actually began with a lie.

Growing up on the outskirts of Lisbon, Bebé's two older brothers were already getting into trouble. His grandmother feared Bebé would go the same way. So she made a difficult choice. 

"She took advantage of the fact that I was the youngest, and she put me in an orphanage,” Bebe told ESPN.

 "At first, she told me I was going to a holiday home. She said I'd be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And I was there for 10 years.

"Imagine. Nine years old. I was just 9 years old when I got there."

At the orphanage, Bebé's ability on the football pitch started to get attention.

"Football was my passion. It's what we did every day, but it wasn't what I wanted to do in life, at first. As the years went on, I felt I was better than the rest. People said I had something. They started to see something in me, that I had talent."

Bebé was chosen to play for a team representing the homelessness charity CAIS at the European Street Football Festival, held in Bosnia in May 2009.

After a standout performance in Bosnia, scoring six goals in a game, numerous teams, including Newcastle and Portuguese clubs like Maritimo and Belenenses, expressed interest. 

Despite initial reluctance, Bebé's talent propelled him from neighborhood team Loures to signing with Guimaraes in July 2010. His impressive start at Guimaraes quickly led to that sensational move to Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson believed signing Bebé was a gamble worth taking considering Real Madrid were also reportedly also in the hunt for him.

 The transfer to United, investigated by anti-corruption police, involved the replacement of his agent Gonçalo Reis with Jorge Mendes.

Bebé recalls the overwhelming moment when news of his signing for €10 million flashed on TV screens, leading to a whirlwind of emotions. 

The culture shock at United, encountering football legends like Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney, added to the surreal experience for the young player.

Bebé had a brief and challenging stint at Manchester United, making seven appearances, including a disastrous cameo against Wolves where he was subbed off after being subbed on himself.

Despite scoring in the League Cup and Champions League, it became evident that he struggled to match the Premier League's demands. 

He went out on loan to Besiktas in 2011 before a cruciate ligament injury while on duty with the Portugal u21s  further complicated his time at United. Bebé never received another opportunity at the club, leading to subsequent loans before permanently departing in 2014 for Benfica, who sent him on a series of loans before eventually joining Rayo Vallecano permanently in 2018

Bebe has built a solid career in Spain over the past decade, in particular at Rayo Vallecano, whom he first joined on loan in 2015 before returning in 2018, where he has since risen to become a captain there.

Meanwhile in January 2019, Bebé, unable to be considered for the Portugal senior team, expressed his interest in joining the Cape Verde national team due to his Cape Verdean ancestry. 

He initiated the necessary procedures for eligibility. Despite aiming to participate in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with Cape Verde, he wasn't selected. 

However, in March 2022, Bebé received his first international call-up for Cape Verde. He made his debut in a friendly against Guadeloupe, contributing with a goal in a 2-0 victory.

He has since amassed 20 caps, scoring six goals. Not bad player who went from street football to Old Trafford in the blink of an eye.

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