From working at KFC to starring in Serie A – Udinese’s Beto speaks on always believing

Portuguese striker Beto has been one of the surprise packages in Italy this season, scoring regularly for Udinese since arriving in the country as an almost unknown from Portimonense last summer.

It has been a rapid rise for the Lisbon-native, who joined Primeira Liga side Portimonense in 2019 from third-division outfit Olímpico Montijo. Prior to that, Beto reveals he was holding down a regular job while playing amateur football at the age of 20, at which point he relied on his own belief that his future would be in football.

Most of Beto’s formative years in the game were spent with local Cascais club União Tires, with Benfica spotting the youngster’s talent and briefly taking him into their ranks before Beto returned to Tires. In total, Beto spent almost a decade with the club on and off, leading to a crucial moment of perseverance in the 2018.

“[Around three years ago] I was training with Tires,” he recalled this week. “My life was work, training, work, training. But it was beautiful. I used to work at KFC. It was great. I don’t feel anything special when I walk past a fast food place now, but when I go back to Portugal I do go to KFC, not for the food but to see my friends.

“I always believed I could become a footballer; I always wanted to be a professional. I used to bet my teammates at Tires. I told them I would get there in five years. Only a couple believed me, the others used to tell me ‘Beto, it’s impossible’ but when I joined Portimonense they changed their minds. Now, I really enjoy being in Italy.”

With eight goals scored for the Bianconeri so far this season, it may not be long before the 24-year-old takes another step. Indeed, links with AC Milan have already surfaced, but Beto remains humble enough to admit that meeting his childhood footballing idol is also one of his objectives.

“I would like to meet Samuel Eto’o,” he revealed. “He is my biggest idol. As a child, I always wrote my name “Beto’o”. I wrote it in my notebook, even as my signature.”

By Sean Gillen