Corruption, greed or rank stupidity: Man U and the Bébé affair. Could it happen at Arsenal?

By Tony Attwood

In September 2010 I wrote a little note about Tiago Manuel Dias Correia known as Bebé, the man Sir F Word signed for £7.5m for Man U with the statement that although he had not seen him play, and had not even seen a video, he had signed him because “sometimes you just have to go with instinct”.

I was interested at the time because the Guardian ran a piece saying that the player’s “performances in training deemed so poor he was not even considered for a reserve fixture last night.”

So I did a little digging.  Estrala da Amadora, Bebé’s team, are in the third division in Portugal, which is about the same as the league below Conference South.  They got into financial troubles and did not pay their players, so Bebé left on a free, and went to Guimarães.  A few days later Man U signed him from there.

My focus at the time was what the AAA would have said if this had been Arsenal.  Buying an unknown for £7.5m who had left his previous club days before on a free, and then finding him so poor you wouldn’t even risk him in a reserve game?  “Wenger finally loses it,” “he’s destroying the club,” “get this madman out” – and that would just be in the first five seconds.

Anyway, after a long silence (two season’s silence in fact) it seems the judicial police national unit for combating corruption, part of the Justice Ministry based in Lisbon, want to question Man U officials about the transfer in relation to a “criminal investigation”

As with anything odd in football there is an agent in there somewhere: this one is Jorge Mendes, also agent to Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Mourinho [note the Real Mad connection here], and Anderson.  The players in that list all moved from Portugal to Very Old Trafford and indeed Man U did well out of the deals.  Mendes made £2.89m from the Bebé deal made up of an agent’s fee, commission and a fee for part ownership of the player.

On 10 April, the anti-corruption police told Bébé’s previous agent, Gonçalo Reis, to attend a hearing as a witness in criminal proceedings relating to the transfer of “the professional football player Tiago Manuel Dias Correia (known as ‘Bébé’) from Vit. Guimarães to Manchester United (England).”

Reis was interviewed and said to the press that others would be interviewed too.  Reis himself is now making the allegation that he had a contract to represent Bébé from 25 August 2009.

Now here’s a funny thing.  The player just played in pre-season friendlies for Vitória before a story appeared in Marca, (a football paper), that Real Madrid, [note who his agent is] were interested.   Man U then moved in on the recommendation of Queiroz, (also  represented by Mendes).

Bébé is now on a three-year contract on wages reported to be around £1m a year, assuming the tax is being properly paid – since his salary is quoted as net of tax.

For 2010-11, Bébé started two Carling Cup games and the FA Cup match against Crawley Town, and also played four times as a substitute.   In his second year, Man U loaned him to  Besiktas in Turkey.  He has been injured for quite a bit of the season.

It is hard to put much more together on the transfer itself at this moment, but it is worth pondering the approach to transfers at Man U.   At the moment of signing Bébé Man U also signed Javier Hernández, and Chris Smalling with Sir F-Word saying that the transfer market was over-priced and there were no quality players available.  At the same moment Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, bought Yaya Touré.  Man U then brought out Scholes.

It is a strange affair – but I would like to return to my earlier point, if I may.   Compare and contrast with the recent signings of Arsenal.  I am not sure that we have ever paid this sort of money for a totally unknown.  Yes we buy players from lower leagues and some of them fail but not for this amount of money, and not without watching them.
Some players are failures – Chris Wreh is quoted sometimes – but then he did play for us in a Cup Final.  We paid a lot for Theo and the Ox from a lower league club, but that was from a Championship side, not a Conference South side.    Of course we have had players who have not fitted in, but I am not sure we have ever taken an utterly unknown player with no experience, put him on £1m a year without ever seeing him, only to find he is not that good.
Perhaps another way to compare and contrast is to look at this season’s loan players at Arsenal…
  • Denilson (Sao Paulo)
  • Wellington (Alcoyano)
  • Samuel Galindo (Gimnastic de Tarragona)
  • Kyle Bartley (Rangers)
  • Nic Bendtner
  • Rhys Murphy (Preston)
  • Vito Mannone (Hull)
  • Benik Afobe (Reading)
  • Craig Eastwood (Wycombe)
  • Henri Lansbury (WHU)
  • Andrey Arshavin (Zenit)
  • Pedro Botelho (Leavnte)
  • Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)
  • Joel Campbell (Lorient)
  • Chuks Aneke (Preston)
  • Ryo (Bolton)
  • Nico Yennaris (Notts County)

Of course many of them will not play for Arsenal, or will not play again, but whatever you think of some of those players (and I know many fans don’t rate Denilson, Bendtner, Mannone, etc) none of these players are in the same situation as Bebe.

It is a really strange case at every level – why buy a player for that much money, put him on that much salary, if the all-powerful top-dog manager has never even seen a video?

I know that a major part of the AAA campaign is the endless statement that Arsenal is run by idiots and dolts.   I disagree of course – but I do begin to wonder what has happened at Man U – at least over this very odd case.


27 Replies to “Corruption, greed or rank stupidity: Man U and the Bébé affair. Could it happen at Arsenal?”

  1. @Tony Fergus is known for his betting addiction he might have put a bet on this guy like he does to horses,Girls(like the one in South Africa) referees (no evidence but its all there for all to see.)Soon we will be able to know how many premier championship he has bought.
    Keep it up Tony

  2. Man utd can afford to make the occasional dodgy signing without Fergie being slaughtered, because more often than not he will bring home silverware.
    Arsene has not won anything of note for over 6 years now (criminal for a club of arsenals stature) so he would rightly be attacked for making any impetuous signings that have not been carefully thought out.

  3. Very interesting, Tony. Very interesting indeed. I am imagining that someday I will call Rednose Sir Mafia’s Puppet. Hmmm… it sounds not too bad.

  4. Park is the captain of the South Korean team who was playing in the top division of the French League.

    Inamoto had played for 5 seasons in the Japanese top division, was a full international and had won the Asian Cup.

    Hardly the same as Bebe.

  5. Well talking about money laundering and corruption I see the Howard Webb has been recalled for the Manc’s @ Sunderland this weekend.

  6. what about Park. He hasn’t been played yet mr Wenger spent the money and a reasonable ammount on his wages.

    Although personally I think the most horendous crime was offering Almunia a new 50k a week contract a few years ago. That is money laundering if ever I saw it 😉

  7. Park is a quality player, but when you play in the same position as RVP, it’s not like chances are going to be on offer much, especially when RVP has been the most consistent and injury free he’s been since signing for you guys.

    For my money he’s much better than Chamakh, but unless there’s tactical change or serious injury to RVP, he’s unlikely to get much playing time next season either.

  8. @j, I think it is rather simplistic to say SAF gets an occasional free pass b/c he brings home the silverware. I think if Wenger did something similar 6 years ago (after we made it to the CL Final) the criticism fired in his direction would still have been ferocious. Yet criticism(s) in the direction of SAF has been rather muted.

    @Andy Kelly – agreed. For those suggesting Park is similar to Bebe, note Park scored 12 goals in 33 appearances last season in Ligue 1. As such, Park actually has a track record/pedigree compared to Bebe at the time of his signing.

  9. Just also realised that Park’s chances will be even further limited next season with the arrival of Podolski.

    Wonder if Wenger originally lined Park up to compete with Gervinho, Walcott and Ox for the winger roles instead of as a striker?

  10. @Mahdain why doesn’t Long also analyze the 3rd team and tell us what could have been?? I think long and his counterparts are just dick heads. I don’t support Man-city but at-least we have another heavyweight coming into the ring that will give us a breather to the so called Furgus my a..

  11. @Indy_Bones … my recollection is that after we signed him, Wenger did mention Park’s versatility across the front. I think after a few training sessions, they have discovered his pace is probably not sufficient for the way we like to play and hence, the few times he has played, Wenger has switched to a 4-4-2 and paired Park with another striker.

    With Poldi in the fold, chances are both Park and Chamakh will be shown the door this summer. Ox has made great progress and can certainly play in the middle if the need arises.

  12. @kampala gun, the only thing I have against City is that Na$ri will get his hands on a medal.

  13. @Wooby,

    That being the case, it does raise the question as to why no-one thought about this beforehand?

    I appreciate a number of the summer signings seemed very last minute, but this seems a very uncharacteristic error from Wenger (as at least the logic behind Chamakh made sense even if he hasn’t performed).

    As a Norwich fan, I’d be more than happy to have him on loan from your boys next season!

  14. @ Wooby. Not to mention Clichy and the rest of the Arsenal Old Boys Club. Come on Rangers!

  15. An interesting case to be sure. It seems some of the AAA are employing the Chewbacca Defense to obfuscate what seems to be a one off case at ManU. Whatever we think of SAF, we must recognise that he has been very astute with his signings; he recognizes talent. And, what with the Glazers looking over his shoulder he doesn`t have unlimited funds. On the surface this isn`t a glass half full, glass half empty discussion. The water isn`t even in the glass. Something is amiss. There was no reason to sign Bebe. The team didn`t NEED to spend the money to make people happy and the team has continued to win silverware. On the surface this doesn`t make sense.

    Now, under the surface, I bet it does…

  16. @Mahdain
    Thanks for the link, what a joke!
    The monkeys at the Telegraph must believe the general public is REALLY stupid. Fans of practically every PL team that has played against manure, (especially at OT) knows they usually have 12+ players on the field, some wearing black. i mean, if we’re looking at wrong decisions, how can they possibly think the chel$ki – manure game should have ended 3-4??????
    And did you see the vague “methodology” at the bottom of the article? I kinda feel insulted that they had the audacity to publish such crap, for lack of a worse word.
    It’s basically a weak attempt at consolation for manure – a search for extra points to create a wishful title for them, in a season when they seem to have failed to pick the title off the silver platter the WHOR presented them with.
    this doesn’t bode well for man sh!tty’s last game, they can easily expect spiderman as the ref, or even end up being stricken with dowd syndrome, to provide that final “twist” in tilt race, aka the Fergus XX.

  17. @Indy_Bones, don’t disagree with you. In hindsight, perhaps Wenger got concerned enough about Chamakh’s form that once the price got low enough, Wenger decided to bring Park in to push Chamakh a bit?

    @Gf60: I actually don’t mind Clichy/Toure winning medals. I think there was a certain sense when they moved that it might be the right time. Na$ri, on the other hand, well, the less I say the better …

  18. IIRC, the role of Quiroz in the Bebe transfer raised a red flag, even in its immediate aftermath. He had gone from Assistant Mgr at United back to a role in Portugal, and it was reportedly at his behest that SAF made the move.

  19. Garry…….aside from your atrocious spelling, you are trying to compare apples and oranges when comparing Bebe to Park. Park is a full international team captain, capped 32 times for S.Korea, played in the Ligue 1 and has 8 years of European experience. Bebe has none of this, yet he earns 1M quid a year???

    Who offered Almunia a new 50k a week contract. a few years ago? Noone knows the players contract details since Wenger never talks about that and the Club keep it confidential as well. So you maintaining that it is equivalent to money laundering is based on your Football Fantasy Manager ¨expertise¨ which is pure BS and based on nothing else but a brain-fart you had while writing your post.Stick to FFM, its safer and you can continue to be a legend in your own mind…since facts and the truth elude you far too easily.

  20. Park was clearly an emergency signing when we did not get a work permit for Campbell. He is not that bad a player and not a bad finisher, but as we did not go far in the domestic cups his chances were limited. Things were too tight in the league to risk leaving out a man on fire like RVP for a PL novice like Park.

  21. Park IS that bad a player. From where he is in the pecking order, and never bringing him on for the last 5-10 mins to build up his confidence and experience, Wenger clearly doesn’t rate him at all.
    And in comparison with Bebe, his transfer fee was certainly smaller, but given Arsenals wage structure, if he stays for a couple of years or more, he’ll be as expensive and of course harder to move on. So whilst I doubt very much that there was anything of a suspicious nature about Parks transfer, the fact is he simply should not have been signed. Whoever scouted him got it seriously wrong. Was it an emergency signing because of Campbell ? Possibly. Maybe we needed someone quick and on the surface his stats etc. made him look like a decent back up, but surely we ought to have been better prepared given the reasonable chance that Campbell wasnt going to get a permit, and quite likely would have been too raw for us anyway.

  22. Tony, isn’t there an allegation of money laundering over the Bebe affair? A hypothetical scenario could be the transfer is merely a method of moving money from one source, eg, a football club to a person in payment for personal services, maybe acting as national coach, who in providing the service breached FIFA drug testing rules, and was subsequently banned.
    In addition to the people you have named, isn’t Nani represented by Mendes?

  23. A stupid article. U kept beating the bushes, may be u can’t openly write about it. But curious case of Bebe is shining example of money laundering through player trading. The same thing Anne explained through her brilliant series of article.

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