Saido Berahino has been linked with a move to Liverpool in the past and is expected to leave West Brom in January – would he be a gamble worth taking?
With the Liverpool forward line in the midst of an injury crisis, attention has turned to the January transfer window to see which players the club could bring in to bolster their striking options.
One player heavily linked with the club is West Bromwich Albion forward Saido Berahino, who is unsettled at The Hawthorns.
The Burundi-born Baggies bad-boy has attracted interest from several clubs, and recent comments by his manager Tony Pulis indicated that the player has no future at the Midlands club.
Pulis commented before West Brom’s game against Newcastle on Monday that the striker was “lucky to be on the bench, never mind starting,” adding that “he’s a smashing kid but lets himself down at times.”
The 22-year-old has been in the news more than he’s been in the team since handing in a transfer request last summer. The club rejected this request, and also turned down two bids from Tottenham towards the end of the 2015 summer transfer window.
This prompted Berahino to tweet his annoyance, saying: “Sad how I can’t say exactly how the club has treated me but I can officially say I will never play Jeremy Peace.”
Peace, the West Brom owner, diverted the attention away from his player, shifting the blame Spurs for unsettling him with unreasonable transfer bids.
Peace said: “We have a key player who has been very unsettled by antics which were designed to get him out of our club cheaply.
“We are now left with the task of repairing the damage created by this unfortunate episode.”
West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher recently said that his team-mate was “a little bit petulant at times”, while also describing him as a “really talented player.”
Pulis’s assistant Dave Kemp has also weighed in with comments, saying “Saido has allowed it [transfer speculation] to shift his focus. He has wasted half a season of his career and you can’t get that back.
“Football is a team game – it’s not about an individual. You have to respect your team-mates and especially the fans.
“If he’d played as well this season as he did in the past he would probably have had his pick of any team in Europe.”
The common theme is one of a hugely talented player, but one who is easily unsettled by outside interference.
Though the negatives can often be blown out of proportion in the media, it’s obvious that Tony Pulis is a manager who won’t stand for any unprofessional behaviour within his squad, and you can guarantee that, should Berahino move to Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp would also let him know where he stands.
Klopp is a manager who has emphasised the importance of a player’s commitment to the team ethic, as well as making it clear that they should also have a connection with the fans.
If Berahino were to arrive at Anfield, the German manager would set out in no uncertain terms what the player would need to do to be a success.
Berahino joined West Brom U12s in 2004, having impressed at local youth team Phoenix United. He and his family had sought asylum in Birmingham when he was just 10 years old after leaving their war-torn homeland, Burundi.
Having played the game in the streets of his native land, Berahino has commented on how football helped him settle in England, and indicated that he appreciates the chances he’s had to use his talents.
“I’m from a little country in Africa called Burundi and I came over from there by myself to join my mum when I was about 10 or 11. A lot of things happened back at home and being in this country has given me a better platform in life.
“It was a huge culture shock because I couldn’t speak a word of English and I had to adapt very quickly. Playing football made it easier for me to settle in and learn the language and I’m lucky I had the talent to get where I am.
“I’ve come really far and I’m thankful for every moment,”
These words, spoken during his time on loan at Northampton Town in 2011, show another side to the player, and also indicate that he’s aware of his own talents.
These are talents which could lead to him becoming one of the top strikers in England, and a move to Liverpool could help club and player through what is a difficult period for both.
With Danny Ings out for the season, Daniel Sturridge out for who knows how long, and Divock Origi picking up a hamstring injury on Boxing Day, the club are down to just one fit striker in Christian Benteke.
Berahino might be closer to Sturridge’s style than the other attackers on the club’s books. His pace and movement would be a godsend for someone like Philippe Coutinho, while it could also create space for the talents of Firmino, which Anfield has only seen glimpses of so far.
On top of this, the England youth international possesses a rasping shot with both feet, as well as being alert in the box and able to finish coolly when through on goal. He also has the mobility to press high up the pitch if he were programmed to do so by Klopp.
With Berahino’s contract expiring in 18 months and given his current situation, you’d expect a fee well below the reported £25 million Tottenham offered in the summer to be enough to secure his signature.
Berahino’s signing might be a gamble given the baggage he brings with him from The Baggies, but for Liverpool it would be a gamble worth taking.