Brendan Rodgers has dealt a blow to Sunderland’s hopes of re-signing Fabio Borini, by suggesting the Italian will have a part to play at Liverpool next season.
Borini was one of the stars of Sunderland’s successful fight against relegation, leading their goalscoring charts and becoming the first player since Ian Porterfield 41 years earlier to find the net for them in a major cup final. The 23-year-old was named as the Black Cats’ young player of the year.
Gustavo Poyet would therefore love to bring Borini back for next season, permanently or, more likely, on loan.
But after Borini played and scored in Wednesday’s 4-0 friendly win over Shamrock Rovers, Rodgers hinted parent club Liverpool want him back.
“With Fabio, it was just a case of us having Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, who I felt were going to play a lot of games,” he explained.
“We had fewer games, no European football, and Luis is so robust and plays every minute of every game. We were always going to be limited in terms of the game time we could offer Fabio.
“I just felt for his development it was best he went on loan. It was nothing to do with me not thinking he was a quality player because I know him better than anyone.
“He needed to go out and get games, and to prove his worth and get experience, and he’s done that. He has shown, especially in the big games, that he can score goals at this level. We have got back a better player.
“Now, a year later, he will come back into our squad this summer. With his pace and his power and his ability to get a goal, he is going to add to the quality that we already have.”
Liverpool were able to play Sturridge and Suarez in almost every Premier League game they were available for last season. But having qualified for the Champions League, they will need a bigger squad next term.
Rodgers is a long-time admirer of Borini’s, with whom he worked as a youth coach at Chelsea. The Ulsterman signed Borini as Swansea City manager, and paid £10.5m to take him to Liverpool two summers ago.
The Italian international’s first season was underwhelming. Poor form and injury limited him to five Premier League starts and only one goal.
Borini maintained throughout his season-long loan on Wearside his intention was to prove his worth and return to Anfield. Nine goals in a side struggling at the wrong end of the table appear to have done that.
Meanwhile, Steven Fletcher’s summer holiday will be delayed as he undergoes a strict training programme to recover from a non-starter of a season.
Until the very late emergence of Connor Wickham, the Black Cats suffered badly for the lack of a potent centre-forward, with Borini used out wide. Fletcher scored just three goals in a campaign dogged by shoulder, Achilles and ankle injuries. The latter ended his season in March, though he had been struggling badly since January.
“Fletch has been out jogging,” Poyet revealed. “He’s doing well, but, before he goes on holiday, he needs a minimum of two weeks training every day.
“He doesn’t have to do it all with us – he can do a lot of it on his own.
“But it will be a few weeks before he can go away, when he’s fully recovered.
“The ankle was in a boot first for some time and then he’s needed to start building up his strength, before he has even been able to train. Normally these kind of injuries fully recover without any problems.
“He had a problem before with that ankle, but he’s going to be alright and he will continue to focus on his rehab work.”