From KFC to Serie A: Udinese star Beto now dreaming of playing for Portugal alongside Cristiano Ronaldo after remarkable rise

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Beto Udinese 2022-23 Serie A HIC 16:9
In an interview with GOAL, the striker reveals he never lost hope despite ending up working in a fast-food restaurant after being released by Benfica

Beto always believed he would become a professional footballer.

Even when he was 18 years of age and playing for amateur outfit Uniao Tires in the fifth tier of Portuguese football, while also working in a KFC outlet, he was so convinced he would make it that he was willing to back himself – literally.

"I had a positive mentality," the Udinese striker tells GOAL. "I thought, 'I'm tall, I'm strong, I'm fast and you can't train these things.' If you're slow, you'll always be slow.

"So, I thought, 'I have these skills – the techniques and the intelligence of the game, these things I can learn and improve.' So, from there, with this self-confidence, I started to develop.

"I even told my team-mates, 'I will become a footballer', and I am proud of this fact. In my opinion, if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will.

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"So, one day, when my team-mates and I were warming up, they were teasing me about this and they said, 'Okay, let's make a bet, then: in five years you will be a professional?'

"I said, 'Okay, fine.'

"And I did it – and after only four years!'"

  1. How Beto became Beto'o

    How Beto became Beto'o

    It really has been a remarkable rise to prominence and it's nearly all down to Beto's impressive work ethic and unwavering self-belief.

    The Lisbon native's potential had been obvious from a young age and his family and coaches at Tires told him he was similar in style to Barcelona and Inter icon Samuel Eto'o.

    "They said I had to choose the No.9 jersey because I was so like him, but I didn't know him at first as I didn't watch my football as a kid," he admits.

    "But later I went looking for videos of him and he became my idol. I liked his game, so he was the first player I impersonated!"

    Indeed, he even began spelling his name 'Beto'o' – as a tribute to his hero!

  2. Benfica release a blessing in disguise

    However, unlike Eto'o, who was discovered by Real Madrid at just 16, Beto was no child prodigy.

    He had been signed by Benfica at 12 but was released after just one season with the club he had supported as a child.

    Such a setback would have devastated many kids but Beto learned a lot from the experience. It made him realise how much he would have to improve to realise his dream.

    "I met so many great coaches, players and people there but, honestly, I saw that I wasn't yet prepared or ready to play football at that level," he explains.

    "I was, of course, a little disappointed when they let me go but then I went back to Tires play with my friends, close to home, so that helped me recover and develop."

    Beto freely admits that being let go by Benfica may have been a blessing in disguise.

    Having to work his way up from the bottom taught him the value of money and is arguably the reason why he remains so grounded.

    He certainly hasn't forgotten where he's come from, given he still has friends working at KFC.

  3. Udinese's latest bargain buy

    Udinese's latest bargain buy

    Besides, it's not as if he was suddenly catapulted into the spotlight after becoming a regular in the Tires first team.

    It was only after he signed for Olimpico Montijo in 2018 that his career really began to take off.

    Beto scored 21 goals in what proved his one and only season with the third-tier outfit, earning himself a move to Primeira Liga side Portimonense.

    Even then, though, Beto had to bid his time. He made just 11 appearances in his first season in the top flight, and failed to find the back of the net once.

    In 2020-21, though, Beto broke out, finishing as Portimonense's top scorer, with 11 goals. There was talk of a summer switch to one of Portugal's 'Big Three' – Benfica, Sporting CP and Porto – but he ended up moving abroad, joining Udinese on loan with an obligation to buy for €7 million ($6m/$7.5m).

    The Friuli are renowned as one of the canniest operators in the transfer market, particularly when it comes to acquiring rough diamonds from outside Italy, but Beto is already looking like one of the best bargain buys in the club's history.

  4. 'Scoring for Udinese like a gift from God'

    'Scoring for Udinese like a gift from God'

    Despite seeing his first sensational season cruelly curtailed by an injury, he has now racked up 20 goals in Serie A, with his most recent effort coming in the impressive 3-1 victory over AC Milan just before the international break.

    "I came to Udinese because, right until the end of the [2021 summer transfer] market, they remained determined to sign me," he explains.

    "So, I'm very happy to be here because the club, the team and my teammates are fantastic. I enjoy coming to work here every day.

    "And the club does everything to help me but the fans are also incredible, they like me a lot and I really like them.

    "Playing and scoring for them, it's like a gift from God, because they did everything to get me to come here and I want to repay them."

    His primary objective is to do so in goals, but there's no denying that he's also likely to end up earning them a significant profit on their initial investment in his services.

  5. 'I was close to Everton'

    'I was close to Everton'

    Everton did their utmost to sign him in January, with Udinese turning down "a very big offer" for the forward, while there has been talk of a move to Serie A's runaway league leaders Napoli at the end of the season.

    "It's true that I was close to Everton," he reveals. "The two teams talked but nothing happened in the end.

    "But I just had to focus on football because Udinese weren't doing well during that period either, so it was better not to think too much about the transfer market.

    "Obviously I think I have the ability to play anywhere, in any country, not just England, but also Italy is perfect for me, so I'm happy here.

    "In the future, I would just like to play in the Champions League against the best players in the world. But to do that I need to become an even better player himself."

  6. Beto's Portugal prospects

    Beto's Portugal prospects

    It shouldn't be long before he's testing himself against the game's top talents at international level, though.

    GOAL understands that Beto was very close to being called up for the start of Portugal's Euro 2024 qualification campaign but missed out because of new manager Roberto Martinez's desire to remain loyal to those who represented the country at the 2022 World Cup.

    However, after including just two uncapped players in his first squad, the Spaniard is expected to introduce more new players in the coming months, and Beto is believed to be at the top of the list.

    "I know they're following me now," Beto says, "but I mustn't think too much about the national team. I'm close, yes, I was already called up for the preliminary squad for the World Cup.

    "But I just have to focus on Udinese for now because if I keep doing well here, they'll call me."

    So, who knows, the guy who once worked at KFC could end up partnering Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portugal attack at Euro 2024?

    "Maybe this is too big a dream, even for me," he says, laughing, "but anything is possible!"

    You certainly wouldn't back against him anyway.