Alan Irvine’s assertion on BBC Radio 5 Live that his former West Brom charge Saido Berahino is ‘probably not’ ready to play a leading role for Tottenham, where he has been strongly linked in recent days, seems well wide of the mark considering the England Under-21 forward’s fine 2014/15 campaign.
That being said, the Burundi-born youngster will almost certainly be forced to move from his preferred centre-forward berth if he makes the switch south to White Hart Lane.
Berahino notched 20 goals in all competitions, including 14 in the Premier League to leave him the third-highest English scorer behind Harry Kane and Charlie Austin.
The fact that the former will be hard to shift up front at Spurs may have led Irvine, who managed West Brom for six months at the start of last term, to his conclusion, but the Burundi-born tyro is clearly being targeted by Lilywhites chief Mauricio Pochettino for his speed and directness, which suggests he’ll be converted to a wide-forward by the Argentine.
England boss Roy Hodgson, who promoted Berahino to the Baggies’ first-team squad when Hawthorns chief four years ago, summed up the players’ attributes in an interview last November:
“What he has is pace, a desire to run beyond defenders and composure when he finds himself one-v-one with the goalkeeper – three very good qualities.”
While Kane clearly has the third in abundance following his shock 31-goal 2014/15 campaign for Spurs, Berahino’s England Under-21 teammate isn’t blessed with electric pace and doesn’t have the ability to blitz through a defence.
As stated on these pages over the weekend, Pochettino is likely to perform the same positional conversion on Berahino as he did at Southampton with Jay Rodriguez, who started out as a striker but drifted wide under the Argentine at St Mary’s.
The move worked wonders, as Rodriguez fired home 15 times in 33 Premier League fixtures during 2013/14 and made his England debut, prior to sustaining a serious knee injury against Manchester City late in the campaign.
Had he not been crocked at the Etihad, it’s likely Rodriguez would be on Spurs’ books by now, as Pochettino has been in the market for a wide-forward since he moved to north London.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Memphis Depay, Islam Slimani and countless others, including Rodriguez, have been touted as Pochettino targets during the past 12 months, and the 43-year-old’s failure to get a tune out of Erik Lamela, Aaron Lennon or Andros Townsend during his first term as Lilywhites chief has clearly intensified efforts.
Berahino may not have it all his own way in the capital, and going by the player’s record of indiscipline that may cause problems, but he could be the ideal summer signing.