Former Man Utd forward Bebe dances and celebrates scoring on his debut for Real Zaragoza, February 5th, 2023

The joy of Bebe: Still scoring bangers, dancing & ignoring the haters

Let’s be clear: Bebe was never quite good enough for Manchester United.

But the same is true of hundreds of players across Europe’s top leagues, not to mention dozens of others that have passed through Old Trafford in years gone by.

Does Bebe care? Not one jot, judging by how he celebrated his last-minute winner on his debut for Real Zaragoza – the latest chapter of a perfectly respectable career of a man who boasts cult hero status at more than one club.

Four days after arriving at the fallen giants, on loan from Rayo Vallecano, he appeared off the bench, tasked with breaking the deadlock away to Gerard Pique-owned FC Andorra.

Stepping up with less than a minute of injury time remaining, Bebe’s goal was that of a seasoned pro. Every action was carried out perfectly.

From the burst of acceleration to overlap with Giuliano Simeone – Diego’s youngest son, on loan from Atletico Madrid – to bending his rule beyond the helpless last defender, the deft first touch to bring it under control before the flawless finish into the bottom corner.

“Bebe came with limitations but there was a talent there. He had fantastic feet,” wrote Sir Alex Ferguson in his autobiography.

“He struck the ball with venom, off either foot, with no drawback. He was not the complete player, but we were coaching him to be better. On the big pitch his concept of team play needed work. With feet like his he was capable of scoring 20 goals a season.”

That never quite happened at Manchester United, but his latest goal was evidence of the ability Fergie saw in him as a youngster.

Even the way Bebe wheeled away, taking off his shirt and signalling to his team-mate to stay away and allow him the space to mark the moment with a little dance. How he instinctively knew where the pitchside camera would be. All of it completely seamless, as if this were the 500th goal of his career. Bread and butter.

The peculiarities of Bebe’s backstory – from his upbringing as an orphan to the reports of taking part in a ‘homeless World Cup’ and the ridiculousness of him being signed by Sir Alex Ferguson – are always going to mark him out as a memorable case.

His story hasn’t quite been the dramatic fairytale of a Diego Maradona, who rose from abject poverty to become the world’s best footballer.

But it’s a remarkable tale nonetheless. He’s responded admirably to the setbacks of never quite making it United or Benfica, the club he grew up supporting, and made the most of his abilities wherever he’s been.

The winger has helped Rayo Vallecano get promoted twice. He’s made over 100 appearances in the Spanish top flight. After turning 30, he made his international debut for Cape Verde and has since scored three goals in seven appearances. He even boasts a Portuguese title on his CV, albeit without having a great deal to do with it.

Now 32 and approaching the twilight years of his career, Bebe is continuing to enjoy what the sport throws at him. Zaragoza are fighting to stay in the Spanish second tier and Bebe’s first act was to gift them three vital points.

Bebe continues to make himself useful, scoring goals and dancing away with a smile on his face and not caring in the slightest about being unfairly remembered as a joke.

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