Watford are very much still in the running to smash their transfer record and pull off an extraordinary deal to sign Saido Berahino.
The Hornets registered their interest last month in the forward who was called up to an England training squad earlier this year – and have not been put off by the £20m valuation placed on him by Jeremy Peace, West Brom’s chairman and arch negotiator.
Stoke City, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Leicester City are all in the mix to sign Berahino, who turns 23 in August. Watford would have been told if the player did not fancy a move to Hertfordshire so they are stepping up their interest and are confident they can strike a deal with Peace, who faces losing the player for free next summer, although West Brom would be due compensation.
The bold move for Berahino not only signifies Watford’s increased financial power and their desire to lower the age profile of the squad, but also represents a departure from their model of looking overseas for value in the transfer market. However, the club’s decision makers are likely to reason that if it was not for Berahino’s contract situation then his value would be significantly more and that the forward still has plenty of room for development.
Berahino only scored four league goals last season and will feel he should have scored at least three against Watford, missing a gilt-edged far-post header at Vicarage Road and then seeing two penalties saved by Heurelho Gomes in their return game.
This regime has done business with West Brom before, striking a deal to send Matej Vydra on loan to The Hawthorns in 2013, while Peace will feel he got by far the better of the deals that took Paul Robinson to West Bromwich Albion in 2003 for an initial £250,000 and the one that sent Nathan Ellington to Vicarage Road for a fee that ended up costing the Hornets £4.25m.
Nicky Hammond, West Brom’s new technical director recruited from Reading, would also have been involved in the negotiations with Scott Duxbury and Gino Pozzo in the loan deal that took Vydra to Madejski stadium last summer, so he will know how hard Watford drive a bargain.
Should Berahino join the Hornets it would eclipse the £12.5m deal for Isaac Success and would raise questions marks over the prospects of Vydra and Obbi Oulare making the cut for the Premier League squad for next season.