According to Sky Sports, New Stoke City manager Gary Rowett has revealed that he hopes to help ‘reignite’ Saido Berahino’s career and has offered the £12 million flop ‘a blank canvas’ following his appointment.
Rowett, who joined The Potters from Championship rivals Derby County in last month, met the media for the first time this week and revealed that he will be speaking to Berahino about his long-term future.
The 24-year-old striker was signed in January 2017 from West Bromwich Albion as the intended solution to the club’s ongoing inefficiency in front of goal. However, he has failed to deliver on that front and has yet to score for Stoke whilst he was demoted to the under 23 squad for the second half of last season by former manager Paul Lambert.
Berahino was once one of the most highly sought-after talents in English football with Tottenham and Liverpool among a long list of suitors after he scored 20 goals for West Bromwich Albion during the2014/15 season.
Ultimately, his career firmly came off the rails. He was frozen out of first team proceedings by Tony Pulis at The Hawthorns, who publically criticised the player’s attitude, and it was later revealed that he had also served an eight-week ban after failing a drugs test.
Berahino’s fortunes have not improved following his move to Stoke. He has often struggled to even make the match day squad at the Bet365 Stadium, has been criticised for being unfit and his last goal in a competitive fixture came over two years ago.
However, Rowett told Sky Sports that he believes the strikers still could have a future with Stoke.
“When you look at someone like Saido’s quality – I had a similar situation with [Matej] Vydra at Derby – where he hadn’t had a very good season so you look and ask if you can reignite some of those players.”
In truth, Rowett may have little choice but to provide Berahino with fresh start.
The striker’s reputation, both on and off the pitch, have taken such a beating over the past three years that it is hard to see any other club having any interest in buying him. He remains one of the highest earners at Stoke and there will be little interest in a forward who has not scored in over two years.
Despite Rowett’s claim that Berahino will be part of his plans, he has already started to attempt to rebuild the team’s forward line.
Stoke have been strongly linked with Wolverhampton Wanders striker Benik Afobe and Watford’s Andre Gray since the end of the season. The Potters certainly do not appear willing to place too much faith in Berahino coming good.
Some figures within the club may not be too keen on the 24-year-old being given another opportunity at the Bet365 Stadium but, unless the club can find a buyer which looks increasingly unlikely, they risk one of their biggest earners being stranded on the periphery of the squad.
Even a club of Stoke’s financial stability would feel uncomfortable cutting their losses one of the most expensive signings in their history.
The more likely scenario is that Rowett will provide Berahino with a clean slate.
At best, the striker may rediscover his touch in front of goal and become a genuine part of Stoke’s plans. The Championship could be the perfect springboard for both the player and the club whilst a different manager may be able to inspire him to greater things.
At worst, Berahino fails to perform at the Championship leaving the club facing the prospect of being stranded with a striker that is unable to score until his contract runs out in four years time.
Rowett may be crossing his fingers that he can reignite the 24-year-old’s career but, based on the previous three years, he may require a minor miracle to achieve such a feat.