It was perhaps inevitable that new West Brom boss Valerien Ismael would return to his old stomping ground this summer.
The Frenchman recently decided to leave Barnsley after a wonderful eight-month tenure at Oakwell, with West Brom swooping for the 45-year-old.
Barnsley narrowly missed out on a memorable promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs last season, with Alex Mowatt acting as the lynchpin in their midfield.
Mowatt has been a key player for Barnsley for a few years now. He was instrumental under Daniel Stendel as they escaped League One in 2018/19, and was a bright spark in their survival under Gerhard Struber in 2019/20.
Last season, in a total of 52 appearances, Mowatt scored eight goals and added seven assists from midfield, with his leadership in the middle of the park helping them along.
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But Mowatt’s contract has now come to an end at Barnsley, with Ismael set to lure his trusted midfield maestro to the Hawthorns having only just arrived himself.
That’s undoubtedly a coup for Albion, to sign a proven performer at this level on a free transfer and beating other clubs to his signature.
It remains to be seen whether Ismael continues to raid his former club, having built up such a good understanding with the Barnsley players and guiding them to within touching distance of England’s top-flight last term.
One player who Ismael did get the best out of, as well as Mowatt, is Callum Styles.
Styles first burst onto the scene under Struber, but Ismael gave him the majority of his 42 appearances in the Championship last season, with the 21-year-old yielding four goals and four assists.
He fit into Ismael’s 3-4-3 system with real ease, slotting in as a left-sided wing-back and producing plenty of attacking output and providing plenty of width.
Ismael is likely to deploy that same formation at the Hawthorns, after it proved to be so effective at Oakwell last season.
In terms of Albion’s current options at left wing-back, Kieran Gibbs left the club at the end of last season to join Inter Miami. This leaves Conor Townsend as their only out-and-out option.
At 21, Styles represents a young, hungry up and coming option who has plenty of potential and is still developing.
His energy and dynamism could prove to be pivotal, too, as Albion look to take the Championship by storm and attack games from the off.
Ismael has already secured the signature of one of his trusted allies. It would make perfect sense to bring in another.