West Brom's Saido Berahino looks dejected after the game
Football fans rejoice. One of the most drawn-out deals of this and any summer appears close to its conclusion. And no, before you ask, it does not involve a nine-digit transfer fee, social media snooping or the Twitter-baiting rent-a-quote that is Mino Raiola.
In comparison, this deal has been shunted from the back pages to the middle like an over-complicated, over-running soap plot that we keep one, vaguely interested eye on while the other seeks out something new and fresh. Who killed Lucy Beale? Who even cares anymore? Wonder what’s going down on Emmerdale these days.
Saido Berahino, if you believed the rumours, was heading to Manchester United or Liverpool, a done deal for Spurs and a coup for Stoke. Yet, 11 months after professing that he would never again pull on the striped shirts of West Bromwich Albion, Saido Berahino is still clocking on at the Hawthorns.
But, for the sake of our sanity, his oft-expressed dreams of departure may soon come true. Yes, a deal may reach its end before our wits reach theirs.
Crystal Palace, 15th in the Premier League last season, have emerged as the most likely destination for the English media’s controversy-courting scapegoat, a man apparently representative of all the modern world’s ills because he had the nerve to want to play European football.
According to a report by the Telegraph yesterday, West Brom will finally release Berahino from his padded shackles once Diafra Sakho completes his club-record £15 million move from West Ham.
And Palace are at the front of the queue, benefitting from an alarming lack of interest in a player who, just over a year ago, was the subject of three £15 million-plus bids from title-chasing Tottenham. Four league goals, no league assists and a very public strop doesn’t exactly enamour potential buyers after all.
That Crystal Palace have retained an interest, too, only serves to highlight their apparent desperation to fill the gaping void where the double-figure scoring number nine should be.
Palace are ambitious. Very ambitious. But, as they have rather cruelly discovered, ambition doesn’t quite make up for six months of teetering perilously above the relegation zone. Thus, after losing out on top target Michy Batshuayi (below) and with Christian Benteke determined to fight for his place at Liverpool according to Sky Sports, they have resorted to their third choice: a £20 million, four-goal striker in the final year of a contract he has repeatedly refused to renew.
Yet, both club and player have little room for manoeuvre. That Alan Pardew has spent pre-season trialling former non-league duo Freddie Ladapo and Keshi Anderson up front tells its own story. Only West Brom and, of course, Aston Villa scored less than Palace’s 39 league goals last season, first-choice centre forward Connor Wickham accounting for just five of them.
Fraizer Campbell, meanwhile, failed to score all season long and will miss the opening weeks due to an injury suffered against AFC Wimbledon on Wednesday, inadvertently dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on Berahino’s switch to South London.
But hey, a marriage of convenience is convenient nonetheless.