Bébé, the player at the centre of Manchester United’s most baffling transfer, has left the club on loan for a second time.
United have announced that the 22-year-old forward will spend the rest of the season at Portuguese club Rio Ave, a move that suggests his future is very much away from Old Trafford.
Were it not, surely the time had come to test him in the English game. That is after all Sir Alex Ferguson’s tried-and-trusted method of first team preparation.
But Bébé is not one for the first team. If anything, he is further away than the day he arrived. All concerned will be hoping his second loan move is more successful than his first – a season-long stint at Turkish side Besiktas that saw him make only four appearances, suffer a cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out for six months, and ultimately return to United after breaking team curfew.
In Bébé’s life story so far, these were the less eventful chapters.
After the initial confusion of his transfer to United had died down, many hoped he would prove to be another managerial masterstroke.
But the truth is, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the echo of the clanger the club dropped in paying a reported £7.4million for him.
Signed following a recommendation from Ferguson’s former assistant Carlos Queiroz, you wonder if that was the last conversation they ever had.
Because despite having many of the attributes necessary to make it in the game, Bébé was out of his depth, and after two-and-a-half years of expert coaching he is no closer to staying afloat.
Strong and tall, with pace to burn and a powerful shot, it is easy to understand why some United fans saw a player who just needed polish. But in his few appearances for the club – two goals aside – he has failed to impress.
His loan move to Besiktas included the option of a £2million permanent deal; and whether or not his latest move contains a similar option, there is little chance he will ever make it at Old Trafford.
The funny thing is – there is still a part of me that hopes he does.
image: © Andrea Sartorati