It takes a lot of balls to reject a club outright to stay at a club where you’re clearly not wanted. But in a football economy as tight as the Premier League’s both players and clubs will often do whatever it takes to get what they want. Fabio Borini, a player whose short career has bounced him around Europe, took a hard stance when Liverpool tried to sell him this past summer. The Merseyside club was set to make a killing on Borini, with a rumored price of around 14 million pounds that would see the club make around 4 million pounds profit on a player who has yet to prove himself. Most Liverpool fans (including yours truly) bemoaned Borini’s move, as they hoped the money would bring in another striker to replace the Italian. A striker was indeed bought, and it’s unlikely that the sale of Borini would have changed the situation as Mario Balotelli was one of the few willing to move to Liverpool anyways.
Liverpool fans are stuck with Borini for the time being, but I want to make the case for the Italian and suggest that it might actually be the best case scenario for the Reds this season.
Depth is more important than ever – More than anything, Liverpool must be able to handle the demands of what could be runs in four competitions this season. Everyone thought that having Rickie Lambert and Balotelli would be enough cover for Daniel Sturridge after the loss of Luis Suarez, but as the last three matches have shown, that’s not really the case. This squad thrives in a 4-4-2 diamond formation that requires two forwards, so having two strikers – and at least one on the bench – is vital for the club’s success. Even if he’s not yet reached the heights of Sturridge or Balotelli, the young Italian provides valuable cover for the lesser competitions.
Borini is a true team player – Obviously the primary requirement of strikers is to score goals, and Borini does score goals, but it’s the other aspects of his game that make him an asset. He’ll never be a high-scoring forward, he’s not a particularly spectacular passer of the ball, and he doesn’t really even make the assist charts. But compared to Liverpool’s other three forwards during last season, Borini is right up there in terms of Key Passes, Aerial Duels Won, and Pass Completion Percentage. Playing alongside Sturridge or Balotelli especially, Borini contributes on both sides of the ball and does the dirty work so that the finishers can do their job. It’s also worth noting that Borini’s defensive contribution blows the other three out of the water from last season – a major factor why Sunderland escaped from relegation.
Borini has room to develop – Being part of a scrappy underdog team that barely escaped relegation was good for the Italian’s development. He even ended the season as the club’s Young Player of the Year after scoring seven goals in 32 appearances for the Black Cats. Fans of his former clubs, especially those that he spent time on loan at -Swansea City and Roma – saw lots of potential in him and hoped to sign him permanently just as Sunderland did. He has benefited from all of these experiences, and even the little we’ve seen of him this season shows that he’s improved vastly since his first season at Liverpool. Hopefully the bits we’ve seen are the tip of the iceberg, and the true hope is that he has an explosive season after his controversial transfer refusal. Most fans know he has the potential, but has yet to show that it can be unlocked.
He’s full of surprises – No doubt much of the love that Sunderland fans felt towards Borini came from this goal against rival club Newcastle. Borini also scored vital penalties in matches against Chelsea and Newcastle; both of those matches were wins and key moments of Sunderland’s season. Borini did not score in any of the matches in which he came on after starting on the bench, but to be fair he started a huge chunk of Sunderland’s matches last year and was rarely subbed off. His goals often come early in matches that he starts in, and his energetic appearance against Ludogorets shows that he could be an important supersub for Liverpool.
His “movement”– It was a bit of joke among Liverpool fans during the 2012-2013 season that Fabio Borini had great off-the-ball movement and was often in the right place at the right time…but he rarely converted the chances that came his way. This is a radically different Liverpool team than the one from that season, and Borini’s qualities could shine alongside Sturridge or Balotelli if the chemistry is there.
Leadership qualities – Even at such a young age, Borini has had tons of experience internationally, having captained Italy U-19 and U-21 teams at various times. He even captained the U-21 side that made it to the 2013 UEFA final, where he scored once in an ultimate 4-2 loss for the Italians. Borini is a quiet leader, who works hard and tries to be an example for teammates both old and young, and will never be accused of not putting in enough effort.
Established rapport – Borini was originally brought to Liverpool because of his experience playing and training under Brendan Rodgers at Chelsea and Swansea. That first season wasn’t exactly the best for Borini or the club, but it did give the player more experience under Rodgers and established relationships with some of the players. Many of those are now gone, but Rodgers’ philosophy has stayed the same and his connection to players like Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson could be valuable to team chemistry. And while they haven’t played together extensively, Borini and Balotelli have played in various youth international squads for Italy. They seem to already be good friends as well, and Borini’s calming influence could help keep Balotelli in check on and off the pitch.
He has a badass celebration – You gotta admit, the whole knife-hand-in-mouth celebration is awesome. Liverpool fans definitely hope to see it more often, mainly because it means he’ll be putting the ball in the back of the net.
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