His time in England wasn’t defined by play on the field. In fact, Bebé rarely put on a Manchester United shirt. Instead, the Portuguese attacker’s legacy will be defined by the mystery around his transfer. For all the doubts that emerged after his $12.5 million purchase four years ago, nothing about Bébé’s play dispelled perceptions he was one of the strangest transfers of the Alex Ferguson era.
After his August 2010 purchase, Bebé made seven appearances for United, scoring twice while remaining an object of curiosity. But loan stints at Besiktas, Rio Ave, and Paços de Ferreira helped reestablish his value. With 12 goals for Paços last season, Bebé put himself in position to be sold.
Unfortunately for United, the club hasn’t been able to recoup its initial investment, with Benfica agreeing to a $4 million deal. If the 24-year-old continues scoring, there is a chance the Red Devils can make up the difference. Entitled to 50 percent of the player’s next transfer fee, United could still profit from Bebé’s development.
In that way, Bebé could have the last laugh, though that laugh would have to be deafening to overcome the years of giggles critics have had at his expense. Amid speculation Ferguson had never seen him play, or his acquisition was the result of a promise related to another deal, Bebé was the to-go joke United dissidents had at their disposal.
With both he and Ferguson gone, United’s removed itself from one its most curious transfers, but coming off his first successful season as a professional, Bebé could yet recast perception of his notorious move.