With Saido Berahino being exiled once again to a French conditioning camp, the future of the 23 year-old remains in doubt.
A year and a half ago, Saido Berahino was one of England’s hottest prospects. The Burundi-born striker had scored 20 goals in the 14/15 season and earned himself a couple of England call-ups in the process. With many top clubs coveting his services, Berahino’s future looked dazzlingly bright.
Fast forward to November 2016, West Brom’s once golden boy is a shadow of his former self, and a considerably large one at that. Berahino has just been sent back to a French conditioning camp to work on his fitness and lose weight. With just 5 appearances to his name this season, it’s clear that Tony Pulis has no place for passengers in his Baggies side.
Berahino’s fall from grace has not been a sudden drop, but rather a slow and gradual disintegration of both fitness and motivation. In September 2015, after West Brom refused to sell Berahino to Tottenham, the striker vowed never to play for Jeremy Peace’s club again. The player’s slow loss of form thereafter, and disregard for his own fitness and weight, are proof that Berahino has largely kept this promise, despite making 40 appearances for the club since.
So where does the blame lie for Berahino’s demise? Some will argue that Peace and West Brom are at fault for not allowing the striker to leave, despite Berahino’s desire to test himself at a bigger club. Two successive summers have past in which the Baggies have had no shortage of offers for Berahino, but the club have refused to sell. Perhaps Peace will argue that in such an inflated transfer market, West Brom have every right to hold out for a huge transfer fee. However, with his value depreciating with every passing transfer window, and the fact that Berahino is continuously cast out by Tony Pulis, it’s a wonder they have not moved him on.
Indeed, Pulis himself has been a significant figure in the whole saga. The 58 year-old is a no-nonsense enforcer of discipline and hard work, and has stated often that Berahino will be a large part of his plans if the striker can get his priorities in order. Pulis’ standpoint can’t really be questioned, no manager should select a player if they demonstrate the kind of unprofessionalism Berahino has. What’s clear is that Pulis is the type of manager who will not accept a player having a perceived lack of motivation, irrespective of talent, of which Berahino’s is undoubted.
It’s clear that Berahino’s downfall has largely been of his own making, despite his criticism of the club’s handling of his desired transfer. In professional football, there is no excuse for being overweight or unfit. It’s clear that Berahino had his heart set on a move to Spurs last year, but surely after the deal fell through it would have been in his best interest just to knuckle down and keep working hard for West Brom, and wait for the inevitable transfer later on.
There are parallels to be drawn with the Luis Suarez transfer saga at Liverpool. The Uruguayan was seemingly set on a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2013, but when the club refused to sell, Suarez did not throw the toys out of the pram a la Berahino. Instead, he worked hard and enjoyed a fine season, winning the Golden Boot and so nearly clinching a Premier League winners medal. The next summer he got his dream £75m move to Barcelona, leaving both player and club satisfied.
However, as Berahino’s weight and ego continue to balloon, so too does his value deflate. West Brom were reportedly demanding £25m for Berahino in the summer and this is simply more than clubs are willing to play for a striker whose attitude and lack of commitment has overshadowed his footballing ability. As the months go by, West Brom may eventually be forced to accept a significantly lower offer, and Berahino’s dream move to a top English club may be gone with the wind.
Undoubtedly, Berahino’s future remains very much in his own hands. Perhaps the striker will come back from France a changed man, ready to devote his full commitment to West Brom’s cause once again. Berahino has admitted that the last year has been the most difficult of his career, but there is still a fine player buried under the excess fat, waiting to realise his true potential. Neither Pulis nor Peace are blocking the 23 year-old’s path, the only one standing in Saido Berahino’s way is himself.