A Fairytale: From Streets to the Theatre of Dreams

Tiago Manuel Dias Ferreira, commonly referred to as ‘Bebe’, was a complete stranger to the world about five months ago. This completely changed on Wednesday evening though, when Premier League powerhouse Manchester United announced on their official website that they’d secured the services of the 20-year-old attacker for an undisclosed fee.



Bebe, real name Tiago Dias Correia, was given the name by his older brother who saw the baby in the cot and was told it was a ‘baby’. The name stuck, but Bebe has always been precocious. The Cacem-born attacker went through quite a difficult childhood. Until weeks ago Portuguese striker, was still living at the ramshackle orphanage, Casa do Gaiato, in Porto where he was raised after being dumped by his mum at the age of 10 – as she could no longer cope with her four sons. Bebe reckons his move to Manchester United as a Cinderella story. The striker has revealed how he spent his childhood as a homeless orphan living on Portugal’s streets. For five years Manchester United’s new £7million striker found refuge in an orphanage. He recalled:

I was largely living on my own. I remember so many nights sleeping on the streets. When I look at what’s happened, it’s like sport’s Cinderella story. All the sacrifices have proved worth it.

There’s so much more to Bebe’s story than just a rise to the top at a lightning pace. To say this is a rags-to-riches story would be an understatement, as the attacker’s career is a real fairytale affair. Bebe played football in a homeless team during a brief spell on the streets before his potential was spotted by a Portuguese third division team, where he first came to prominence. Only five weeks ago, Vitoria Guimaraes made a move for Bebe and lured him away from Estrela Amadora in the Portuguese third division. He never made an official appearance for Vitoria Guimaraes though. The promising youngster impressed during a number of pre-season friendlies and several big European clubs showed an interest in signing him.

Five weeks after Bebe had signed with Vitoria Guimaraes, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to Portugal to meet the young attacker on the recommendation of ex-United Assistant Coach and present Portugal National, Carlos Queiroz. That’s when the deal was discussed for the first time and finally concluded on Wednesday when United made a shock £7.4million move which activated the release clause in Bebe’s contract.


Manchester United almost missed out on signing the hot prospect, according to a report in Marca. The Spanish newspaper claims that Real Madrid gaffer Jose Mourinho was also keeping tabs on Bebe. However, the Reds confirmed that capture of the 20-year-old on Wednesday evening. The Guardian suggests that former United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz, currently in charge of Portugal’s national side, was the one who tipped off Ferguson about the young attacker.


Guimaraes president Emilio Macedo says that there were four offers from big clubs and that the player made his choice. But Mendes says the interest was even wider. He said:

The seven biggest clubs in the world were watching him –


Mendes was influential in securing the £7.6 million move. Bebe revealed that he had always dreamed of playing in English football and that his agent told him he should join Manchester United. His raw talent attracted the attention of several other European giants, including Real Madrid, but he had no doubt about joining United and following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.

It was super agent Jorge Mendes who engineered Ronaldo’s move to United and his subsequent move to Real as well as that of current United star Nani.

Bebe declared:

Jorge Mendes advised me to choose Manchester United. I also wanted to choose this club because it was always my dream to go and play in England.


Dreams do come true, Yes!. Bebe, thrilled with his move to Manchester United, spoke of his delight at completing a ‘dream’ move to Old Trafford. Bebe said:

I’m very happy. I had the dream of playing, one day, for a major club. That dream has come true.


Bebe will now get the chance to feature for one of the world’s most famous clubs, which Ferguson admitted is a meteoric rise by anyone’s assessment. Ferguson said:

It is a fairytale when you read about his background, but it is one of those things that happen when you identify someone with potential. Normally you would assess someone over a longer period of time but other clubs were starting to have a look so we made a quick decision.

He doesn’t speak any English, so that needs to be addressed, and we need to allow him to settle in but sometimes you have to work on an impulse.


The man in charge of the children’s home says he had to keep Bebe on track at times, but that he has come to serve as an example for all the other children at the home and how you can fulfil your dreams, no matter what the obstacles.

Father Arsenio Isodoro said:

I used to tell him off when he went to play for Loures. He didn’t behave well. But he’s a kid with a very good heart and very close to his friends. I hope he puts into practise everything he learned here in the Casa do Gaiato, Bebe’s home.

It’s our dream that our kids turn into men. In the case of Tiago [Bebe], he was someone who had a gift and who fought with perseverance to become a great player. He took on responsibility and managed to arrive where he is on his own merits.”

Arsenio revealed that Bebe had Cristiano Ronaldo as his inspiration as he said:

Cristiano Ronaldo is his idol, and as he grew up he would watch him play with United, dreaming that one day he would follow in his footsteps.

Bebe caught the eye when he played in a tournament for the homeless which took place in Croatia, in a mixed team. Arsenio recalls:

I remember how we won 19-1 and Tiago scored 18 of our goals.

Jorge Paixao, currently the coach of Mafra, was Bebe’s coach during his spell with Estrela Amadora. In an interview, Paixao revealed that Bebe’s difficult childhood could very well make the difference.

He was raised on the streets and that’s where he learned to play his football. All the players come through youth academies now and they’re all the same. Bebe is nothing like that. He’s an old-fashioned player. He learned everything that he knows on the street. He possesses a natural creativity and that could really make a difference. Additionally, he has the quality to improvise very well and he has all the features needed to succeed. He’s pretty tall and is very strong in the air. He’s also very fast though and is technically very good.

Joao Lino, who coached Bebe at Loures, said of his ex-player:

We cried, we’re so happy about it.

Adilson Cabral, 20, who grew up with Bebe at the Casa do Gaiato children’s home in Loures and played with him at Loures and Estrela, said:

He withstood the pressure better than me. I always believed in him and knew he was very capable. When I learnt that he was going to Manchester United I got a shock. He’s get a bit ahead of me. But we can still be together if I can follow him one day. It’s all happened so quickly. None of us expected him to get so far so quickly. We’re very happy for him and hope it all goes well. This news gives us the strength and will to seize life with more dedication.

Another friend, David Perreira, 22, said:

Apart from being a great player, he’s a kid who knows what he wants in life. Despite the difficulties he’s been through, he never gave up his dreams and never turned his back on a fight. He’s an excellent player and human being. He’s humble, friendly and playful. He used to joke: ‘If there are several clubs interested in me now, I’d like to see what it will be like when I’m in form’.

The workers at the Casa do Gaiato told how the kind-hearted 20-year-old spent his first pay cheque on clothes and shoes for friends at the home.


Bebe is a player who can play in several positions in attack. The youngster can play from both wings, as a support striker, and also as a lone forward. He will have to fight off stiff competition at Old Trafford though if he is to break into the first team. Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Federico Macheda are all fighting for a starting berth as well. He may well have to bide his time for a chance in United’s first team, but nobody seems to doubt he has the potential to go on to make an amazing impact.


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