West Brom striker Saido Berahino is to return to a conditioning camp in France as he struggles to regain fitness following what he has called a “period of turmoil”.
Earlier this week Baggies head coach Tony Pulis said he thought the 23-year-old was close to a first-team comeback after returning to training, having not played since September.
But instead the club issued a statement on Sunday saying Berahino would return to the south of France, where he has been working on his fitness, having admitted he lost focus following prolonged transfer speculation.
“The decision for Berahino to return follows talks with head coach Tony Pulis and senior staff at the club in the belief that the change of environment will benefit the Baggies striker’s return to Premier League action,” the statement said.
Transfer speculation – most commonly involving Tottenham – has surrounded Berahino since the summer of 2015, at the end of a campaign in which he scored 20 goals in 45 appearances.
The saga strained his relationships with both Pulis and former chairman Jeremy Peace. That in turn led to a downturn in form which reached a head this season, during which he has made only five appearances – the last of them on September 10 – and is yet to score.
Speaking on the club’s website, Berahino said: “I have had a good, constructive talk with Tony Pulis and the club’s senior management and we all agree this is the best way forward for me.
“This last year has been the most difficult of my career and it has left me short of the form and fitness required for the Premier League.
“I have never been a player who lacked confidence or a belief in himself but that has been where I have found myself and it has hit me hard. It has left me feeling depressed and struggling for focus which has made it even more difficult to regain full fitness.
“Constant speculation in the media doesn’t help and I have made this statement in the hope that it will respect my privacy and determination to get my career back on track.”
Berahino added: “I want to thank the club for its support throughout what has been a period of turmoil for me.
“It may not have always seemed as if I have appreciated the efforts of everyone here to help me but believe me I do. Albion has been my second home and the club that has brought me this far. It has never turned its back on me and when I need it most has been at my side.”
Pulis, meanwhile, has been preparing his side for Monday night’s Premier League visit of Sean Dyche’s Burnley.
Both British managers have kept their sides out of trouble far this season, and Pulis is eager for a homegrown manager to be given another chance to win trophies at one of the top clubs.
He joked about the coverage foreign managers receive by comparison, and wants domestic ones to have the chance to compete for silverware again.
“That’s the way it is. They come into the country, they’re sexy, they’re new they’re bright,” the 58-year-old Welshman said.
“That’s fine, brilliant, not a problem for me. I’ll listen to them. They say (Jurgen) Klopp trains them (Liverpool) three times a day in pre-season – absolutely amazing. I’d never have thought of that.
“The disappointment over the past few years is the managers who’ve gone into the bigger clubs – take Sir Alex (Ferguson) out it… Brendan (Rodgers) was close to winning a title (with Liverpool) but didn’t win a title.
“Mark Hughes had a go at Manchester City but didn’t do it. (Roberto) Mancini came in and did it, now Klopp looks like he could do it at Liverpool.
“We could’ve done with someone stepping into that top six and then taking it on to win something – that hasn’t happened. I’m sure other people will get the chance, and when they do you hope they end up winning something.
“We need that, we need a British manager who’s going to win things.”