Former Newcastle transfer target 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”.
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 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,” itsaid.
Transfer speculation – most commonly involving Tottenham, but also Newcastle who chased the player last season – 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.
“I want to thank the club for its support throughout what has been a period of turmoil for me.”