Tiago Manuel Dias Correia: Bebe takes giant step on to the big stage

In 2003 Sir Alex Ferguson brought a rough-around-the-edges Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford. The winger has now established himself as one of the best players in the world in current times and, at the age of twenty-five, is the captain of Portugal. Has Fergie done it again?

When Manchester United announced the signing of a twenty-year-old forward who had only played twenty-six times for a Portuguese third division club, for a fee of around £7.4 million, eyebrows were raised, to say the least. The striker only scored four goals for Estrela de Amadora, where he played for one season before moving to top division side Vitoria de Guimaraes. Before he had even played a competitive game for his new club, though, Ferguson swooped in and signed the player, with Real Madrid also rumoured to be interested.

The story of Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, commonly known as Bebe’, is quite an extraordinary one. Having spent part of his childhood on the street Bebe was raised in an orphanage. The nickname Bebe means ‘baby’ in Portuguese and it was given to him by his brother. The forward, who can play on either wing or as a central striker, played for the CAIS (an organisation in Portugal that aims to get homeless kids off the street through the medium of football) team in the 2009 European Street Football Festival in Bosnia. Although the side did not get past the second round Bebe scored forty goals in six matches. Bebe was considered for the national homeless squad to participate in the Homeless World Cup, but he did not play in the tournament.

After a decent first season with Estrela, in which the club were relegated, Bebe was forced to leave as they were facing serious financial difficulties. Vitoria signed him and, after an impressive pre-season with the club, United began to show their interest, as did Madrid.

It was Ferguson’s former assistant, Carlos Queiroz, who recommended the striker as a great prospect. The United manager met Bebe on Tuesday 10th August and made Vitoria an offer that triggered a release cause in his contract.

Sir Alex explained, in a pre-Newcastle United press conference, that Bebe would be challenging the likes of Nani and Antonio Valencia on the wings. The player, who stands at 6ft 3in tall, can also operate as a target man or as a support striker. Bebe joins Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Federico Macheda and Javier Hernandez in vying for a place in the front line.

The surprise move for Bebe comes in a summer where United have chosen to buy players for the future, with Hernandez and Chris Smalling joining the club. Many fans are questioning Ferguson’s thinking behind these moves as they want to see players such as Mesut Ozil join the club. The sixty-eight-year-old manager, though, is looking to make sure that the club is in a stable position before his eventual retirement. The fact that United already have a relatively strong squad and one which Ferguson is happy with should be of comfort to the United faithful. And, let’s be fair, when has Fergie been seriously wrong?
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