In the first of a new series, Alasdair Hooper takes a look at the rise and fall of Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, better known as Bebe.
Whether you feel it is a rags-to-riches story or a gamble that failed to pay off, fans will always remember when Portuguese midfielder Bebe signed for Manchester United.
Having never seen Bebe play, Alex Ferguson signed the unknown 20-year-old for £7.4 million in August 2010. Prior to this, having been homeless for much of his life, Bebe’s only competitive football had come the season before in the Portuguese third division.
Abandoned by his parents at the age of 12, it’s not hard not to appreciate the beautiful side of Bebe’s story. In just three years, he went from being placed in an orphanage and growing up in a shelter near Lisbon, to playing for United.
Along the way, Bebe would star for Portugal in the 2008 Homeless World Cup – scoring 40 goals in six matches. Two years later, he would be training alongside Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, both of whom had just come off the back of a shattering 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League Final.
Bebe was living the dream when he scored on his Champions League debut in a 3-0 win over Bursaspor the following year. But, unfortunately, his story does not have the fairytale ending that many would have wished for.
Bebe only made a few more appearances for United after failing to make any further impact at Old Trafford and soon racked up a long list of clubs as he searched for a footballing home. While still on the books at United, he was loaned to Besiktas, Rio Ave and Pacos de Ferreira before making a permanent switch to Benfica in 2014.
With his time at Benfica proving just as unsuccessful, Bebe would be loaned to Cordoba, and then to Rayo Vallecano in the 2015/2016 season, giving him his first taste of his current club.
He then moved from Benfica to Eibar, before again being loaned to Rayo Vallecano in 2018. In the summer of that same year, the now 30-year-old made the move permanent but many of his recent appearances have been from the substitutes’ bench.
Bebe has endured much instability in his personal and professional life. However, should the resilient midfielder rediscover his fitness and sharpness, then he could finally become settled in the number 10 shirt at Rayo Vallecano for years to come.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992