The 18-year-old proved to be a shining star in the Baggies’ youth system this season, scoring 23 goals in 28 appearances for the club’s under-18s and under-23s teams as one of the most promising young forwards in the country.
However, his efforts resulted in just one senior appearance for the first team this season with the Englishman coming on as a substitute against Brighton in the FA Cup back in January.
Quiz: Which club did West Brom sign these 24 players from in the 2000s?
He did manage to force his way into a league matchday squad under Valerien Ismael in December when they faced Reading – but was an unused substitute that afternoon and didn’t appear on the bench again in the second tier for his current side.
Even with Steve Bruce’s side having nothing to play for during the latter stages of the campaign with their inconsistency ruining their chances of forcing their way into the top six, the teenager was nowhere to be seen.
That could be because he let the board know of his decision to leave way back in March. As per this same Express and Star report, he was made an ‘attractive’ offer to remain at The Hawthorns beyond the season – but rejected that in favour of a departure.
He isn’t likely to be short of offers when the summer comes along though with elite clubs across Europe including Bayern Munich thought to be keeping close tabs on the 18-year-old.
It’s a regrettable situation for Albion because if he had been able to step up to the first team seamlessly in the next couple of years, he could have been a real asset considering their struggles in front of goal during 2021/22.
Daryl Dike may only be 21 and with that, is probably the club’s long-term option up top. But even with that, he still would have had a role to play and may have even been utilised out wide with Karlan Grant often playing on the wing.
That front three of Dike, Grant and Cleary could have been lethal but they may have suited playing in a 4-3-3 with few defensive responsibilities considering how attacking Grant and Cleary are.
And they may have been given the license to stay up the pitch with two defensive midfielders potentially being utilised in this 4-3-3, with those sitting deep in the middle of the park coming out to help the full-backs when needed.
With these two midfielders sitting back, that could allow someone like current target John Swift to push forward and provide even more attacking firepower, so it’s regrettable Cleary won’t play a part in that.