James Rodriguez Was Overlooked by Manchester United for Bebe Transfer

Matt Jones@@MattJFootballFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28:  James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at Maracana on June 28, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The man lighting up the 2014 World Cup could have been donning the red of Manchester United, but the Old Trafford outfit decided to sign Portuguese forward Bebe instead.

James Rodriguez has been in sensational form for Colombia at the Brazil showpiece, scoring five goals in four games and helping his nation to their first-ever World Cup quarter-final.

He’s showcased in abundance the quality that prompted AS Monaco to spend £38.5 million on him last summer, per BBC Sport, but things could have been so different had United seized the opportunity to sign him as a teenager.

United snubbed Rodriguez, then moved for Bebe just weeks later.
United snubbed Rodriguez, then moved for Bebe just weeks later.Gallo Images/Getty Images

According to Dominic Fifield of The Guardian, the Red Devils were offered the chance to sign the forward for just £5 million back in 2010. During the first part of that season, a young Rodriguez was part of the Club Atletico Banfield team that secured the Torneo Apertura, and club intermediaries approached senior scouts at Old Trafford about a potential deal for the player.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson talks to Bebe before sending him on during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on October 2, 2010 in Sunderland,
Michael Regan/Getty Images

They received no response from United, who shelled out £7.4 million on Bebe just weeks later—a player who has flopped spectacularly at Old Trafford, and someone who the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he “didn’t watch” before sanctioning the deal, per Soccernet, via ESPN FC.

Rodriguez would eventually get his move to Europe when he signed for Porto later in 2010. He shone in the Primeira Liga, winning three consecutive titles and, as noted in Fifield’s piece, attracted attention from both United and Chelsea in the summer of 2013 before eventually moving to Monaco.

After his scintillating exploits at this World Cup, Rodriguez is now being linked with a host of Europe’s most illustrious outfits—including United, per Joe Short of The Express—but you can imagine he’ll command a considerably heftier fee than the £5 million United could have snapped him up for four years ago.

Rodriguez moved to Porto and shone.
Rodriguez moved to Porto and shone.Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

He's making good on his indisputable potential on the grandest footballing stage, and this revelation is sure to have left Red Devils fans hugely frustrated. Manchester United supporter BeardedGenius took a light-hearted approach to the news:

But hindsight is a wonderful thing. 

It’s impossible to say how Rodriguez would have developed had he made the move to Old Trafford, and if Ferguson—a manager who was usually very astute when it came to isolating youngsters with potential—didn’t think he was up to the required standard, it’s difficult to argue with him; although, admittedly, the signing of Bebe remains arguably his worst ever.

The game is littered with these types of “if only” scenarios. Rodriguez could have come to England, struggled to adapt to the raucous nature of the Premier League and subsequently stunted his development. Instead, he made the move to Porto and flourished. Now, the watching world is reaping the benefits.