Saido Berahino. What has happened? It seems like an age ago that he was being pursued by Spurs, touted to be a great Premier League and international goalscorer.Since that summer in 2015, Berahino’s career has stagnated, declined, almost rotted. At just 23 years old the Burundi-born forward should be settled and developing in comfortable surroundings, instead he is festering somewhere in West Bromwich. The story is a sad one, but misfortune and misunderstanding has been become routine in his career.
Berahino’s backstory is tragic and well-reported. Caught up in violent civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Burundi, he and his mother had to flee the country in search of new beginnings. Initially separated from his mother, Berahino endured DNA testing to permit him residence in Birmingham. Once that was done, football granted him a rewarding life. Heavily religious, Berahino expresses a heap of gratitude towards God and West Brom, an unlikely duo.
From a young age, Berahino has been ravaged by tragedy and suffering. His father’s death is one that, understandably, he seldom discusses. When he joined West Brom after impressing locally in Sunday League for Aston Tower, Berahino learned the game and was cultivated in English football. His goal against Manchester United, his team, at Old Trafford is one that you can pinpoint as the promising start in his career.
But Berahino had shown an eye for goal professionally before that moment. On loan with Northampton Town, Brentford and Peterborough United, he demonstrated an ability to score in England’s lower tiers. A feud with then Brentford manager Uwe Rosler ended his loan prematurely and so begun his tense relationships with club staff.
When Tottenham came calling in 2015, Berahino was keen to move on and develop at one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. He dealt with the situation naively, handing in a transfer request and using social media to exhibit his desire to go elsewhere. Hefty bids were rejected by the Baggies’ chairman Jeremy Peace and Tony Pulis was publically disappointed with Berahino’s actions. He was labelled as ‘disruptive’, a trait that will go on to haunt his career and put off potential buyers.
The club that offered Berahino so much in his early years had promptly turned their back on his behaviour. Pulis is still insistent on his ability and potential, likening him to Harry Kane at Tottenham or Jamie Vardy at Leicester, but opportunities have been rare since that saga. He has been subject to numerous bids from Stoke, Watford and Newcastle but Peace remained stubborn with his asking price. That price-tag is one that has loomed over him since that first bid from Spurs. £25m was the figure, enough to inflate the most humble of egos. There had been suggestions that Berahino’s conduct off the pitch and surrounding himself with the wrong people led the young striker astray
Fast forward to the present, Berahino has fallen ungraciously off the radar. Last season, he was an important utility player for West Brom but only managed 4 goals all year. This time around, there was promise that he would be used as a starting eleven player for Pulis, but since October, he has fallen out of favour amid rumours that he is overweight and unfit. He has been started on a singular training regime but just last week Pulis was said to be ‘fed up’ of talking about him. Now that West Brom are excelling with their lone striker Salomon Rondon, it would seem unlikely that Berahino will ever salvage his career in the midlands.
Again we are in the transfer window where Berahino usually comes to the fore. Again, Stoke City are interested since Wilfried Bony has stalled spectacularly. Berahino’s contract runs out in summer and with Jeremy Peace such a shrewd if not frustratingly dogged businessman, it will be interesting to see if Berahino may finally be granted his move away from the Hawthorns.
His talent was there but a few wrong decisions later, Berahino is 23 years old and has been absent in some of the most significant years in his career. When he could have been starting, content and emerging at another Premier League club, he is gradually wasting away in Birmingham. A fresh start would be beneficial, but his story of bravery turning into disrespect is one that will hang over his career for years to come. Saido Berahino will always be a misunderstood footballer.