Tony Pulis believes West Brom have been missing the real Saido Berahino for six months.
The striker could face Tottenham on Saturday for the first time since threatening to go on strike in the summer after Spurs had four bids rejected.
He has been benched for the last three Barclays Premier League games after a dip in form and has netted just three times this season; he featured in our top ten of surprise disappointments this week.
The Baggies rejected two offers from Spurs on deadline day – the last rising to £23million with several clauses – after he scored 20 goals last season and, ahead of their Hawthorns visit, Pulis is still waiting for Berahino to regain his form.
He said: “If you look at last season the most influential player at the club was Saido. He got the goals which got us the points which kept us in the league. This year we haven’t had that.
“For six months we’ve played with Saido being nowhere near as good as he was last year. It was disappointing in lots of ways. I’m not blaming Saido, not anyone, it’s just fact.
“There’s no question Saido was disappointed the deal never went through. There are people in the game who can handle it, there are people who can’t.
“He’s an outstanding player and talent but we haven’t had that at the same level as we did last year.
“I’m not saying we can’t get him back but we haven’t got him back to the same level.
“The problem is the window is coming around again and they’ll be all the speculation.”
Berahino was also dropped for three games earlier in the season as Pulis felt he was not in the right frame of mind to cope with the spotlight.
Spurs have again been linked with a move for the 22-year-old next month but Pulis insisted Berahino is better off at the Baggies.
“He has to get as fit as he was last year and wash everything else away. He has been given a God-given talent but in the last six months he has not fulfilled the potential,” he said.
“He needs to get back to that for his own sake. The best place to do it is here.
“I don’t want to get into asking prices and whether he is for sale or not. I’m not interested.”
Meanwhile, Pulis is without the banned Claudio Yacob against Spurs while Ben Foster continues to be out with a long-term knee injury.