The eternally debated balance between club power and player power results in the equally hot topic of how to handle a footballer that doesn’t want to play for his club.
The saga surrounding the potential transfer of Saido Berahino has continued from the last window back in August; even if there is some kind of resolution, and Tottenham are able to negotiate some kind of deal for the England player, which is by no means likely, his plight suggests that there are better ways for either the player, the club, or indeed both, to react to these tense situations.
Tony Pulis has recently come out and stated his opinion quite firmly that his player has “wasted three or four months” of his career, which follows on from Berahino’s own statement back in August that he could “officially say that I will never play” again for Jeremy Pearce, the club chairman, after two deadline day offers from Tottenham had been rejected (the third and fourth bids that the club had received from Spurs over the transfer window).
It was hardly a threat that any player could reasonably stick to; four months voluntarily out of action not only paints the picture of a player that does not put the club first, but it leaves such a player four months out of practice, four months worse off in their ability and with no evidence that they have maintained the kind of form that won them bids from bigger clubs in the first place.
Berahino, sadly for him, has accomplished the worst of both worlds. He has, of course, played for club, but his distinctly obvious lack of interest has showed on the pitch. This season, the baggies strikes has managed only three goals from eight league starts and ten substitute appearances. It is a far cry from the 14 goals he managed last season, when he appeared in every game and only started on the bench in six matches all season.
Tottenham must surely be questioning whether or not it is still worth buying such a player. Often one season of quality is enough to earn a big move, as Berahino’s was last season – it was only Pearce’s view that there was no deal worth taking that prevented it. However, when no deal initially emerges, and a player’s form dwindles, hopes of a transfer may fade away too.
All this points back to the fact that Berahino’s strop and lack of desire to play for West Brom has simply been a proverbial shot to his own foot. Not only that, but if no deal from Spurs or any other bigger club comes along, the Baggies and Jeremy Pearce will have lost themselves the windfall from any sale, without maintaining the kind of striker, form and goals, that Berahino brought to the field last season. In other words, everyone loses.
It is generally seen as good footballing sense that if a player doesn’t want to play for you, he has to be let go for the sake of dressing room unity and the fear of loss of form. Yet, since chairman who stand strong in the face of financial incentive from bigger clubs attempting to buy out their talent are given huge credit, there is some conflict on this line of thought.
When Liverpool were offered £50million for the in-form Fernando Torres, and Torres himself handed in a transfer request, the reds had virtually no choice; keep a player who doesn’t want to play for you or try and replace him with some new talent that does (in that case the questionable Andy Carrol and the rather inspirational purchase of one Luis Suarez).
The entire existence of transfer requests would be inconsequential, since clubs could simply ignore them until a contract expires, if it were not for the notion that uninspired players are a waste of wages, squad place and can do damage to the dressing room.
Jeremy Pearce may have got respect form certain quarters for his strong stance in protecting the players he has, and he is far from the only chairman to get similar plaudits. However, at the point that a player doesn’t want to play for a club, a good chairman surely has no option but to cut his losses and reinvest. It would be one thing if a player would love a transfer to a big, Champions League club or similar, but would still be perfectly happy to keep playing. Had Ricky Lambert not moved to Liverpool, there is little question that he would not have kept playing his heart out for Southampton.
Yet this was not the case with Berahino. As a result of the young striker’s antics, his career has taken a setback, along with his form and reputation; in addition, his value has decreased, and though his status as an England player most likely inflates that, and sale now would still face losses compared with that which could have been agreed in August; furthermore, West Brom have played the last four months a good striker less than what they could have had if they’d sold Berahino and reinvested.
When faced with big money clubs circling for the nurtured and talented players of smaller and poorer clubs, credit should absolutely be given to any chairman, manager or owner that protects their squad and their player. However, there is a point at which the principle of not being bought out is secondary to the need for maintaining a squad that performs for the club, that is worth the investments into the players and that will not, as much as is possible, fray the atmosphere in the dressing room for other players. Saido Berahino is the epitome of the damage that can be wrought through the mismanagement of players that have no desire to play for the club.