Delay... but £8.25m Matheus Pereira West Brom deal will be done
It looked set to be a fiery - Midlands derby with three huge points at stake.
But that’s not the only reason Albion’s clash with Blues would have been significant had it gone ahead today.
It is highly likely the match would have marked the 30th league start of the season for Matheus Pereira.
And that would have triggered a clause leading to Albion paying Sporting Lisbon £8.25million to sign the Brazilian on a permanent basis.
Anyone who has seen the 23-year-old play will know that is a snip because – very simply – Pereira has got it all.
Strong, technical, an excellent dribbler and a player who can split a defence with one exquisite pass, the playmaker looks destined to make it to the very top of the game.
And Albion – and Slaven Bilic in particular – deserve immense credit for gambling on the player and bringing him to The Hawthorns.
Ability wise, Pereira was never a risk.
This is a man who, while on loan at Nuremberg last season, won the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year award.
To put that in perspective, the last three winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award – the English equivalent – are Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Dele Alli.
And let’s be honest, there was no way any of them were starting the 2019/20 campaign in the Championship.
The reason why Pereira was deemed a gamble – or why a bigger club than Albion didn’t move for him – was that he was viewed as high maintenance.
“Some things are impossible to understand,” wrote the Brazilian on social media after being left out of Sporting’s match-day squad for the opening game of the 2018/19 season.
“I’ll just have to cheer from the stands.”
That comment, it is believed, was the final straw for Lisbon boss Jose Peseiro who saw Pereira has petulant.
And that is why he moved him out on loan to Germany, having previously had a temporary spell at Portuguese outfit Chaves.
At Nuremberg, manager Michael Köllner didn’t have any problems with Pereira’s temperament.
Initially, though, he was concerned the Brazilian shirked his defensive responsibilities.
That is something that will surprise Albion fans with the 23-year-old having battled admirably since becoming a Baggies player.
But those qualities were not on show when he first arrived in Germany.
“I was actually surprised,” Köllner said. “In the first few weeks he had big problems defensively.
“Defensively, he lacked the attitude and the connection to the game. Defence is essential in the Bundesliga.
“He worked hard on that and improved. That is why Nuremberg was a great time for him.”
There is no doubt Pereira quickly won over his team-mates during his time in Germany.
“With Pereira, we have a unique footballer of high quality.” said Nuremberg captain Hanno Behrens, after the Brazilian starred for the German side last season.
It appears Pereira improved markedly during his time in Germany.
But with bridges burned at Sporting, the Portuguese side were willing to let him leave. And it was Albion who got the deal done.
Initially, Lisbon wanted a deal that meant the Baggies would have to buy Pereira at the end of the season.
But the Albion hierarchy negotiated that down to an option – as they themselves felt there could be a catch.
So far there hasn’t been, with Pereira proving to be nothing but an exemplary pro.
His permanent move to The Hawthorns may have been delayed because of coronavirus. But it will still go through.
And when it does, Albion will have an elite player on their books who is worth five times more than what they paid.