Reports that 30 per cent of the transfer fee Manchester United paid for Bébé – Tiago Manuel Dias Correia – went to agent Jorge Mendes raises further questions about the intriguing deal. United reportedly paid €9 million for the 20-year old when he joined from Vitória de Guimarães in August, with €5.5 million going to the Portuguese outfit.
Mendes’ agency Gestifute received the remaining €3.5 million for its share in Bébé, reports Portuguese sports paper O Jogo. United told the Telegraph on Thursday that the club had not directly paid Gestifute any money for its role in the deal.
Still, the report once again raises the spectre of third-party player ownership, with the practice now outlawed in the Premier League following Carlos Tevez’ controversial transfer to West Ham United in 2006. Quite how Gestifute came to ‘own’ a third of Bébé’s registration is as yet unexplained.
The O Jogo article also caused widespread media confusion in the UK, with both Talksport and Sport.co.uk incorrectly reporting United had picked up a £4.8 million “bargain” in Bébé.
The Gestifute agency has become a powerhouse in Portuguese football and now represents some of the leading figures in or from the country, including Nani, Anderson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho. Indeed, Vitória offered glowing praise of the agency on completion of the Bébé deal earlier this year. No wonder, as Vitória effectively flipped Bébé, signing the forward on a free transfer in June and then selling him on for a fee without a competitive game played.
The €9 million fee – £7.9 million at today’s exchange rate, although widely reported as £7.4 million – was roughly confirmed in notes to United’s end-of-year accounts. The audited annual figures show a post-balance sheet transaction of £8.3 million was paid in respect of player registrations after 30 June, 2010.
Bébé was United’s sole transfer window acquisition post the 30 June accounting deadline for the 2009/10 financial year, although Dutch youngster Gyliano van Velzen also joined the club. No fee has yet been agreed between United and van Velzen’s former club Ajax while a dispute over his international clearance continues.
If the distinction between the £8.3 million figure reported in United’s accounts and the widely reported £7.4 million fee is as yet unexplained – United’s press office could not confirm the fee at time of going to press – then more details may yet emerge when Vitória President Emilio Macedo addresses the club’s annual General Assembly on Friday.
Some costs are known however. Signing on bonuses paid to the player are included in United’s salary not acquisition costs within the accounts, with Bébé believed to earn just £90,000 per year. Should the player perform to expectations the Portuguese will see his salary rise sharply.
Meanwhile, no clarification of how Gestifute distributed its profits on the deal has yet been made. The role or profit of other agents or Bébé’s former club Estrela da Amadora may yet become clearer in time.
Whatever the true figures, Bébé’s transfer remains controversial despite the player’s promising full début against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carling Cup on Tuesday. The 20-year-old was deployed in a wide right role and scored, albeit with a heavy deflection, in United’s 3-2 win.
There is, of course, a long way to go before a promising performance against a much changed Wolves side justifies the £7.4 – £8.3 million United apparently spent on bringing the player to Old Trafford. In the annals of United’s history Bébé’s remains one of the strangest; that Sir Alex Ferguson has not previously seen the player, the high fee for effectively a third division player, and the role of Gestifute in the deal.
No suggestion of financial impropriety is made of course but in an era of apparent austerity for United, with £720 million debt on the club or parent company’s books, Bébé remains an extravagance. This sentiment is all the more stark given other transfers this summer – the £8 million paid by Tottenham Hotspur for Rafael van der Vaart and £12.4 million paid to Werder Bremen by Real Madrid for Mesut Özil, for example.
And in media terms it’s the story that keeps on giving. One suspects that this week’s revelations over the transfer fee are not the last in Bébé’s time at Old Trafford.