Saido Berahino has suggested West Brom may have frozen him out because he was not signing a new contract with them – and has hit back at claims of him being “fat”.
Berahino left Albion last week to join Stoke for a fee of £12million that could rise to £15million, bringing to an end a troubled period for the 23-year-old forward.
He has not played a first-team game since September, with Baggies boss Tony Pulis repeatedly saying he was not fit enough for selection having been ruled overweight earlier this term.
Meanwhile, with the deal Berahino was on due to run out at the end of the season and the club facing the prospect of losing him for a tribunal fee at the most in the summer, West Brom had been trying to persuade him to sign a new contract.
Asked on Friday why he had not been playing, Berahino said: “It is hard to explain, because the reason they were saying in the press was the opposite to what I knew.
“I was accused of being fat – but how can you become fat after starting three games in the league, and then being dropped? Suddenly you are unfit? So it is a question mark.
“They never actually told me why I wasn’t playing. It could be because I didn’t sign a new contract.”
Pushed on it possibly being linked to the contract situation, Berahino – a West Brom academy product – said: “I think it is, because if you see, they offered me three different contracts in the space of three or four months, so it could be part of it.
“And especially when, from the first one, I said to them I didn’t want to sign because I didn’t feel like I was part of their plans, and they still went and offered me a new one.
“I didn’t want the fans thinking I was rejecting it because I’m bigger than the club – that’s never been the case.
“I’m not bigger than West Brom – they made me who I am right now and gave me that platform, so it was hard for me, getting all that abuse from the fans. They made life hard for me and my family.
“They didn’t understand exactly what was happening, but the people involved in it know exactly what happened.”
Following the concerns expressed about his weight and fitness, Berahino was sent by the club to France for a personal training programme.
And regarding that, he said on Friday: “They had to cover themselves – the club always has their own interests. They say what they have to say.
“I know why it could be that I wasn’t playing.”
Two weeks before his move Berahino posted a video on Instagram of him jogging, having previously posted a topless picture on Snapchat to underline his fitness. He says they were not aimed at West Brom but at friends because “everyone was saying ‘fat boy’!”
Berahino – who in the summer of 2015 responded to Albion rejecting several bids for him from Tottenham by issuing an apparent strike threat on Twitter, for which he has since apologised – insists he has been “very” unfairly portrayed and is “not a trouble-maker” nor a “money-grabber”.
He said: “I’ve had fans who said I was leaving because of money and I’m a money-grabber.
“I got offered a contract after the 2014-15 (a season in which he scored 20 goals for West Brom) which was way more than I expected and I refused to sign it because I believed the club wasn’t going in the right direction for me.
“If I was a money-grabber I would have signed.
“And after that I was offered three more contracts – it was a lot of money, but if I’m not happy where I’m playing or feeling I’m part of the group I’m not going to sign.”