West Bromwich Albion issued a new statement today on the club's website about the sale of forward Saido Berahino, and it's the clearest indication yet that the Baggies have absolutely no intention of selling the forward to Tottenham Hotspur.
The statement, written by club chairman Jeremy Peace, has seemingly ended any chance Tottenham may have had on signing Berahino. Peace writes:
"As I have made clear from the moment Tottenham lodged their first bid for Saido on August 18, selling our top goalscorer was never on our agenda this summer.
Our plans have always been based on Saido being part of our squad for the 2015-16 season.
But there are two other good reasons why he will not be sold.
Firstly, had we ever entertained the notion of selling him we have not received an offer anywhere near attractive enough from Tottenham Hotspur.
Not only have the offers been too low as a valuation of the player, but they have been based on stage-payments and add-ons over a long period which do nothing to reflect Saido's ability and potential."
What's curious about Peace's statement is that he seems to be arguing on both sides of the issue. West Brom has always been adamant that Berahino was not going to be sold, but have also in the past given statements that indicated that he would be sold for the right price. This statement seems to be saying, in effect, "Saido's not for sale, but Spurs also didn't offer enough money."
Peace went on to comment on Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and how the negotiations have unsettled Berahino in recent weeks:
"I have the greatest respect for Daniel Levy but he must surely appreciate we would have needed to replace Saido had he left and no consideration of that position has been reflected by Tottenham's strategy.
It has contributed to our completing our last two games without a key player.
I have spoken to Saido and of course I have sympathy for him. He has been unsettled and distracted by all this and I understand that.
But I have strongly advised him to put this behind him and get back to what he does best which is to work hard for the team and score goals for Albion."
To me, this is the point where Peace's statement hits a rhetorical wall. There's an argument that can be made that, when it comes down to it, Tottenham could have offered West Brom the same or similar deal back in June and it might have had a warmer reception and resulted in a much easier transaction. Daniel Levy certainly has the reputation of being a last-minute negotiator, which Peace references in his statement and which Levy's detractors will gleefully point to as evidence that he is a bad chairman.
However, I reject this premise entirely. That's football. The time crunch presented by the end of the transfer window is also part of the process and does create pressure on clubs to get deals done, especially when the player involved is actively pushing for the transfer. Tottenham isn't the only club that uses the transfer deadline as a negotiation tactic. Besides, West Brom has been rebuffing approaches for Saido for months now, and to say that Spurs should have come to them earlier while at the same time criticizing the process for turning Berahino's head and slamming Levy for leaving business so late, seems disingenuous to say the least.
Not only that, but West Brom had very obviously had contingency plans in place for when Berahino was sold, since they signed two forwards in Salomon Rondon and Rickie Lambert during this same this window. Those are two players clearly signed with an eye to replacing Berahino, so to complain that Tottenham had not left enough time for the Baggies to replace him is not only unfair, but complete bulls**t.
That said, the parallels between the Saido Berahino situation and what Tottenham went through with Luka Modric in 2011 are numerous and apt. West Brom have successfully beaten back an approach for their best player by a larger club in the same league. Pending a ridiculous, over-valued bid from Spurs or another club, they will now likely keep Berahino for another year. If they're lucky, he will be a consummate professional and play his best like Modric was and did. If they're unlucky, Berahino will take matters into his own hands.
Either way, West Brom must know that they can't keep ahold of Saido forever. Another club will come in for him eventually. It might be Spurs, or it might be someone else. And, much like Luka Modric, whom Spurs sold to Real Madrid a year later for £10m less than what Chelsea offered, West Brom might not get as much money the next time for their prime asset.