Emile Heskey believes West Bromwich Albion will be pulling off a minor miracle if they manage to keep reported Aston Villa target Matheus Pereira at The Hawthorns for another season, speaking exclusively to HITC.
With relegation almost unavoidable now, West Brom can at least take inspiration from two clubs in particular as they look to prepare for life back in the Championship.
Norwich City and Watford secured their return to the top-flight in double quick time, bouncing back at the first time of asking.
Clearly, it helps to keep hold of your star players. Who would have thought it?
Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and Ismaila Sarr made the Championship look like child’s play at times, producing a series of dazzling performances en route to promotion.
West Brom will be hoping to repeat the trick themselves but, with the likes of Sam Johnstone and Matheus Pereira attracting interest, that may be easier said than done.
The Athletic reported this week that Aston Villa could raid their Midland rivals for the £9 million play-maker after his stirring performance in Sunday’s 2-2 draw.
“They’ll do well to keep Pereira,” says Heskey, the one-time Villa favourite. “He plays some really exciting football, him and Callum Robinson playing between the lines. He’s got this knack of picking out a hole, picking up the ball, turning and running at players.
“I’d be surprised if he stays because I’m guessing that a lot of teams are looking at him. Especially for the last month or so, with the performances that he’s put in.
“But I can understand why West Brom would want to keep hold of him because they’ll want to bounce straight back up. They won’t want to stay too many seasons in the Championship. If you don’t bounce back up straight away, that’s where you’ll have problems.
“We’ve seen several clubs, you’ve got Bolton in League Two now, where you can have that freefall. Wigan in League One. You’ve got to be careful. You’ve got a balancing act, you’ve got to take the right players who you know are going to give you the right chance of bouncing straight back up as opposed to just keeping everyone where, the next minute, it doesn’t work and you’ve got a wage bill that you can’t afford.”
Prior to his eye-catching display at Villa Park, Pereira also ran Southampton ragged and set up four of West Brom’s five goals during that stunning away win at Chelsea.