Saido Berahino is struggling to cope with the speculation regarding his future, and the pressure of success…
West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino is on the periphery of becoming both a world class talent, and a world class failure, who throws his talent away and wastes his potential. That is the fine line footballers toe after all.
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Still just 21-years-old, the young Baggies forward started this season with a rightful sense of optimism, but with little in the way of expectation on his shoulders, either from his own fans, or from onlookers around the Premier League.
But after bagging eight goals by the end of October and becoming the Premier League’s top goalscorer – although he has since been surpassed by QPR’s Charlie Austin – Berahino was a household name, and enduring all the pressure that came with it.
An England call-up followed, as did a severe drop off in form. The media spotlight intensified around him as the goals dried up, and criticism began to rain in from Albion supporters who suddenly relied on him, and at times him alone, to score their goals.
Liverpool and Tottenham were linked with multi-million pound moves for the player, and Albion subsequently upped their asking price to upwards of £20m – a truly ridiculous fee – in an attempt to ward off potential buyers.
The pressure on these players to succeed is intense, and the Berahino case is indicative of why there is a lack of young English talent in this country. Berahino must stay at West Brom, as a move to Liverpool – or any other Premier League club – could be the beginning of the end.
Earlier today, the BBC reported that Berahino has been charged with drink-driving. He was arrested by Cheshire Police after being stopped near junction 20 of the southbound M6 in the early hours of 22 October.
Now, it’s not right to blame this fully on extenuating circumstances, but the pressure on Berahino to perform, and the speculation regarding his future, are causing a young man to act out – just as he did at the weekend, when he failed to celebrate his four-goal haul against Gateshead.
If Liverpool pursue their interest, and sign Berahino for anywhere in the region of £20m, the pressure and expectation will climb yet higher. Liverpool fans, players and management will all expect him to produce almost immediately, while the media will scrutinise his every move.
For a player already showing signs of something of a breakdown, this cannot be healthy for his development as a footballer, or a person, and he risks ruining his entire career.
What he needs to do – and yes, this is easier to say than it is to do – is to get his head down and concentrate on playing for West Brom. Have two or three really strong seasons for that club, and repay those that helped nurture him since 2004, and handed him his professional debut six years later. Then, when the time is right, you can move on.
We’ve seen it time and time again over recent years, players having their heads turned by big money offers at major clubs, stewing away in the reserves for several seasons on big money, and never managing to make the grade – either due to growing lazy, and over-comfortable, or not getting enough first-team chances.
This is not a criticism of Liverpool, who are of course totally within their rights to pursue a player who has scored more goals than all of their strikers combined this season, but it is a warning. Sign Berahino, and you’ll have on your hands another young, English talent, who is not ready for the top.
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