The Saido Berahino transfer saga may have finally concluded after the striker completed a transfer to Stoke City earlier this month but the hard work is just about to begin for a 23-year-old that still has an awful lot to prove to the wider football fraternity.
The young starlet burst onto the scene for West Bromwich Albion during the 2014/15 season and was considered one of the brightest young talents in Europe after a campaign of success and improvement. He scored 20 goals in all competitions with his electric pace, trickery and clinical nature in front of goal proving to be perfectly aligned with the demands of English football’s top flight. Such was the high esteem in which he was held that there was even hushed talk of a potential England call-up.
Fall from grace
However, during the summer of 2015 Berahino commenced on a cycled of self-destruction. After West Brom turned down a deadline day offer from Tottenham Hotspur the young forward tweeted that he would never play for The Baggies again. For some, it was the perfect example of everything that is wrong with modern football. Too much too soon, they said. He should concentrate on his football and not the money, they said. There is no loyalty in football, they said.
The striker has made sporadic appearances for West Brom since his infamous tweet. However, his desire to move away from The Hawthorns has never diminished. Unfortunately for him, The Baggies have stuck to their guns and have blocked any potential moves citing that no club has been willing to match their asking price. Under Tony Pulis, a traditional, hard-hitting authoritarian manager, Berahino was never going to find an ally. The Welshman has frozen out his problematic striker commenting on his poor attitude, mentality and lack of fitness, omitting the 23-year-old from the first team picture and sending him to France to train alone.
Mark Hughes keeps the faith
So what have Stoke City actually acquired for the £12,000,000 (and additional £3,000,000 in add-ons) that they have paid West Brom for Berahino?
Many may argue that they have signed a problematic player. A young man with an inflated ego, exaggerated sense of self-worth and a weak mentality. A striker who is unfit, has been too lazy to get fit, and has not featured in first team football since September 2016. A bad apple with a poor attitude.
These are the kinds of statements that Berahino must now disprove and there will be not better place for him to find redemption than in North Staffordshire. Stoke City have been chasing the striker for over a year and despite failing to agree a deal with West Brom in the summer the club were still willing to renew their interest in January. The supporters love an underdog and the young starlet will find plenty of vocal backing behind him when he takes to the pitch at the Bet365 Stadium.
More importantly, Mark Hughes has complete faith in his new signing. The former Manchester United striker does not see Berahino as the problem-player that some at The Hawthorns have painted him out as being. Instead, he sees a striker that possesses all of the tools required to be one of the Premier League’s leading goal scorers. A young man that has been harshly treated and who was dealt a bad hand. A player that is going to be armed with extreme motivation and a desire to prove everyone wrong.
And make no mistake, Berahino does still have everything to prove.
But if Hughes can help the 23-year-old to rediscover the goal scoring touch that he demonstrated in the 2014/15 season then he will have one hell of a player on his hands.
For Berahino, you sense that there is no better environment for him to re-start his career than at Stoke City.