After a summer of speculation, Matheus Pereira’s transfer away from the Hawthorns was confirmed ahead of Albion’s opening game on Friday and, while there was a sense of inevitability about the Brazilian’s departure, the destination was surprising and disappointing.
As a Baggies fan, I perhaps shouldn’t care where a player goes assuming it is not a rival, but Pereira is no ordinary player, he is probably the most gifted player I have seen live in an Albion shirt and, while I accepted the fact that relegation made his departure unavoidable, I was looking forward to seeing him improve further in the Premier League with some sort of paternal pride that we all feel when our club has played some part in the development of a great player.
For me, his decision to move to Saudi Arabia suggests a lack of confidence in his own ability to make it in one of the top leagues. As a purely financial decision, it is difficult to argue against the move – he will almost certainly earn far more in the short term and he may never get another offer like it in his career. However, by moving to what is a footballing backwater, he is probably sacrificing the possibility of moving to one of the world’s top clubs and, while there was no guarantee of that happening, I feel he certainly had the potential to play at the very highest level.
It is obviously difficult to put yourself in his position – he had a modest upbringing and has not had the most straightforward of careers, and while he found a very happy home at the Hawthorns, perhaps his previous experiences at different clubs led him to believe he had to take the opportunity when it was presented, for fear that another may not come along.
He made just 77 appearances for the Baggies, eight of which were from the bench, and scored 20 goals. But in those short two years, he made a massive impact on the team and the fans, particularly during that period in the promotion season when we were able to watch him in the flesh week in week out. The free kicks against QPR and Bristol City were wonderful and his one man demolition of Swansea City will live long in the memory.
Bar another wonderful free kick, this time at Goodison Park, it took him a while to find his feet in the Premier League, but in the second half of the season, he showed us how good he is. A wonderful performance against Wolves and six goals in the last eight games of the season was not enough to keep the Baggies up, but we all felt that it would have been enough to secure a transfer back to the Premier League.
Nonetheless, the offer never came, or at least not one that the club was prepared to accept. I remain surprised that none of mid-table Premier League clubs were prepared to take him on and, while Albion could have waited a while longer, they obviously felt that it was better to get the deal done and have some time to reinvest the funds.
The undisclosed fee is rumoured to be in the region of £17m which, if accurate, is perhaps less than we might have expected, but it would still be a record fee received for club, eclipsing the £16.5m earned by the sale of Salomón Rondón in 2019, and it maybe reflects the COVID-hit transfer market that all but the super clubs are experiencing.
The Brazilian’s social media statement last week was perhaps ill advised – I feel it was perhaps a result of two non-native English speakers not understanding the various uses of the word “committed” rather than any prams and toys being involved, but it may well have put off any other potential suitors and perhaps expedited the deal.
For my part, I will always look back on Pereira with fondness. He is the most talented player I have seen live in an Albion shirt and I loved that he was ours, if only for a short time.
Obrigado, Matheus, e boa sorte!