This is why you should’ve just taken the money, man.
Saido Berahino, is a 22-year-old striker for Premier League cellar dwellers West Brom. He’s young and English and pretty damn good. Because of this, he’s been a wanted commodity by some of the league’s better teams. Believing that he’d proven himself worthy of a spot on those teams, he told the Baggies earlier this summer that he wanted to leave, but now the transfer window has closed, and Berahino has been left holding the bag (heh).
Berahino’s relationship with West Brom has been frayed for a while now. In the middle of last season, the striker made some indelicate though perfectly accurate statements about wanting to maintain his performances that season so that a bigger club would come for him in the summer. The club’s reaction to this was way out of proportion, ostensibly chiding him for being a greedy, self-centered malcontent while fluffing his inevitable transfer fee and giving an easy excuse to fans for why they sold off their most promising player. West Brom’s decision to air the player’s dirty laundry in the press for having the audacity to strive for better was disingenuous and self-serving.
So when summer came, everyone assumed Berahino would be gone. For his part, Berahino remained mostly quiet, hoping that in time someone would rescue him. A suitor did emerge fairly early on in the window when Tottenham submitted a bid. West Brom apparently wasn’t satisfied with the amount (supposedly £18 million) Spurs had offered, so they turned it down. Club chairman Jeremy Peace had this to say about Tottenham and the other clubs interested in a transfer:
“We have no interest in selling Saido, which is what I have told the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. I know we are living in an age where no club can say ‘never’ about the possibility of selling a player. However, the prospect of selling Saido is simply not on our agenda.”
“Not for sale,” especially when dealing with a small club like West Brom, really means “We won’t sell at that price.” Spurs came back with an improved offer, which the Baggies again rejected. As the end of the window neared, Berahino submitted a written transfer request and Tottenham returned with an offer of £22 million, including add-ons and variables. West Brom rejected this, claiming that the transfer fee’s incentives were structured so that the club would almost certainly never see some large percent of that money, which ended Tottenham’s pursuit.
Berahino was angry. So much so, he posted the following tweet just before the transfer window shut:
So, yeah. Things have really escalated here.
In West Brom’s defense, Berahino is under contract. That gives them the right to accept or reject any transfer fee they see fit, and if an offer comes in that doesn’t meet their valuation, it’s perfectly fine for them to turn it down.
That ignores the context, though. According to the club’s own statements during that tiff with Berahino back in February, they had already reached their wits end with the “ungrateful” striker. At that point, their asking price was something around £20 million, a very healthy return for what would be a rotation option for a Europa League-quality club like Tottenham.
If Berahino was so hard to work with and so disgruntled, why not accept an offer that on its face looks to be more than what they’d demanded a few months earlier? If those offers weren’t up to snuff, shouldn’t they have been in more active communication with Tottenham and other interested teams in order to get this alleged bad egg out of the dressing room before he did something like publicly talk shit about the team chairman? Now that everyone knows there’s not the slightest chance Berahino sticks around with the club long term, do they really think they’ll receive more favorable offers in the future?
Here’s what I think happened: at some point last season, Berahino was promised that if he shut up and kept performing, the club would sell him in the summer as long as they got something like £20 million for him. Berahino agreed and informed Tottenham of the situation at the start of the summer. Spurs sought to pry the forward away with as small an offer as possible, which West Brom flatly rejected. Tottenham’s offers increased but only incrementally, believing that at some point the situation would turn untenable and the Baggies would be forced to sell. As the end of the window closed and West Brom started the season fairly poorly, the club decided that unless they got an offer with a substantial amount of that £20 million guaranteed, they’d stick it out another window or even season with Berahino and hope he’d help them avoid relegation. Berahino felt lied to by the chairman for not getting his move, so he popped off on Twitter.
The fundamental disconnect here is that West Brom have failed to accurately read their player. They claim not to trust Berahino’s maturity and professionalism, yet they kept him on the team despite this incredibly predictable outburst. They apparently think he can help them win games, yet they risk alienating him by bashing him in the media when he admits higher aspirations. Instead of selling him when his value is highest and moving on from someone they’ve painted as a bad guy, they’re now stuck with angry player who does not want to play for them, and without the money to bring in guys who would contribute.
There’s no use in Berahino vowing not to play, especially since following up on that threat would greatly deter to an eventual transfer in the future. The minutes he stands to play with the team this season should only help him grow, and if he continues to grow, a team like Tottenham will still be interested. Still, his feelings do make sense, and all of this could’ve so easily avoided if West Brom showed any kind of common sense and tact.