Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson could have saved a huge sum of money on their latest signing, if they had moved quicker.
Manchester United could have signed Portuguese striker Bebe for as little as £125,000 last January, it was claimed last night.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson shocked the football world three weeks ago by sanctioning a £7.4million deal for a 20-year-old he had never even seen play on TV.
Bebe has not played competitive football at a level higher than the Portuguese third division and Sportsmail can now reveal that his former club Estrela da Amadora touted him around Europe for just 150,000 euros as they desperately sought cash to stave off a winding-up order.
Former Estrela coach Jorge Paxaio told Sportsmail last night: ‘Last season we had no money at all. We were trying to transfer Bebe to other clubs. We had to raise money desperately. We told everyone in England and in Europe: “For 150,000 Euros you can have him”. We couldn’t get anybody interested. Nobody trusted him. None of the clubs were interested because he had never played at a high level.
‘I was surprised with the sudden way it happened with United. I was hoping he would move to a bigger club in Portugal or to a medium-sized club in Europe. I didn’t expect Manchester United.’
Bebe grew up and lived in a homeless shelter outside Lisbon until he tore up his contract with Estrela and moved to Portuguese Premier League club Guimaraes on a free transfer in the summer.
Last season he earned £12,000 a year at Estrela, the same amount he now earns at United in a week.
Last night, Bebe’s former agent Goncalo Reis said: ‘Bebe would have been very cheap during last season and then we tore up the contract because he wasn’t being paid by Estrela and so then he was free.
‘A scout from United could have contacted me or the club last season. There was no secret. But I understand that the United scout just saw certain games in Portugal and only realised Bebe was a great player when he saw some pre-season games involving Guimaraes.
‘If they had looked wider they would have seen him earlier and paid very little. But everyone was the same.’
Bebe is back in Portugal this week after being selected for the Under 21 squad for the first time. He could face England tomorrow night.
Coach Paxaio added: ‘Having said this, Manchester United have signed an extraordinary player.’ (Daily Mail)
This still seems like a very strange transfer, and until Bebe plays his first game for United it will be hard to judge whether the transfer fee paid is too high.
It must be frustrating for the Manchester United hierachy to know that they could have grabbed a real bargain if they had acted sooner though.
I personally cannot wait to see Bebe in a Manchester United shirt and at only 20 years of age, he should be given plenty of time to prove his worth.