Are West Brom and Saido Berahino really wise to say goodbye?
West Bromwich Albion striking starlet Saido Berahino has certainly set a cat amongst the pigeons, after giving an apparently unauthorised interview in which he stated he was keen to be “pushing on and moving on to bigger things.”
The Baggies are bringing disciplinary action against their want-away Burundi-born forward, with Tony Pulis short in attack following his failure to land Carlton Cole and Greek flop Georgios Samaras leaving on loan.
“I’m taking care of my short-terms right now,” said Berahino. “If I keep scoring the goals and if I keep doing well…I know the future will be bright for me and I know that I’ll go a long way.”
It appears a summer switch is now inevitable, with West Brom, 9/2 with Coral to be relegated, now believed to have abandoned contract negotiations and prepared to listen to offers.
A pricetag of around £20m has been mooted, but a bidding war between likely suitors Liverpool and Tottenham, who are both expected to be embroiled in summer searches for a new striker, could see West Brom bag a princely fee.
The question remains, however, whether Berahino and the Baggies parting ways would really be the best path for both club and player?
English football history is already littered with unfulfilled potential, and an abundance of once highly-rated youngsters who made the wrong turn.
Berahino, still only 21, now faces a fork in the road which could define his career; make the jump to a Premier League giant or stay at a club where he is virtually guaranteed playing time on a weekly basis?
There is much truth that being successful requires taking risks, so perhaps it will pay off for bold Berahino to test his talent among top class players and fight for European football rather than scrap to escape relegation.
However, if the England Under-21 attacker, who has netted 10 times in 12 appearances for the Young Lions, has enough quality to make the grade, his chance will come again.
Despite his impressive goal haul of nine goals in 23 Premier League appearances, Berahino has shown all the hallmarks of being a starlet still under development.
Undeniable pace and poaching instincts are just two of Berahino’s assets, but the Baggies’ academy product has shown a tendency to drift in and out of games when his side is struggling, as well as causing concern with off-field issues.
As for West Brom, they have invested much time and energy into their fledgling frontman, and it would be a shame if the club that helped a young Berahino rebuild his life in England missed out on his best years.
The West Midlands side could have a solid and stable future under new boss Pulis, but need to build a base around, rather than sell, their top stars.
With uncertainty surrounding Berahino’s future, as well as that of summer signing flop Brown Ideye, and the failure to land Cole during deadline day of the winter window, Albion could lack edge in attack.
Relegation remains a real possibility and, while a future fee for Berahino may secure them new recruits in the summer, splashing out is no guarantee of quality or goals. The Baggies’ transfer policy has certainly been hit or miss recently, with record-signing Ideye a prime example.
West Brom are now reportedly planning to fine Berahino for his off-the-cuff comments, but should instead attempt to convince their best player to stay put, instead of preparing to cash-in. Pulis needs his main man to be focused as Albion prepare for crunch clashes with Burnley and Swansea City.
It is worth noting that Berahino also stated in his recent interview: “I’m flattered to be linked to all these sort of teams, but I stay focused. I still have a long way to go. I’m learning a lot from all sorts of different players.”
If West Brom, outsiders at 16/1 to win the FA Cup, can keep Berahino firing on all cylinders, he could save their season, which is surely worth smoothing out a few ruffled feathers for.
As Manchester United flop Wilfried Zaha and many of Liverpool’s summer signings can attest, a move to a Premier League big-gun is no quick fix for success, so Berahino should also be careful not to burn his bridges.