As Liverpool prepare for the new season to begin, a number of strikers have arrived at Anfield, from Divock Origi’s return from Lille to the £32.5 million acquisition of Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, it is clear last year’s lack of goals has been recognised as a major issue. Indeed, their 2014/15 total of 52 was almost half of the previous campaign’s haul, as neither Mario Balotelli nor Rickie Lambert came close to filling the void left by the loss of Uruguayan star Luis Suárez or the injuries of Daniel Sturridge.
That quest for a reliable goalscorer other than Suarez has blighted Brendan Rodgers since his arrival at the club three years ago, and is arguably one that is typified by Fabio Borini, the first signing of the manager’s Liverpool tenure.
That £10.5 million deal marked the third time the two men had joined forces, with the Italian having been on loan at Swansea during the Northern Irishman’s time there as well as the pair spending the early years of their respective careers together at Chelsea.
Borini joined the London club – where Rodgers was the Reserve Team coach – as a 16-year-old in 2007, quickly making a good impression and earning his first team debut just two years later.
“I don’t like doing things the easy way,” he said of a move he called “a leap in the dark,” shortly before his move to Swansea. There he would bag six goals in nine appearances to help the Welsh club earn promotion to the Premier League for the first time, only to discover Carlo Ancelotti had been fired by Chelsea in the meantime.
As a result, Borini returned to his homeland with Parma, who would immediately loan him to AS Roma for a €1.25 million fee, with the capital club securing an option to buy him outright for €7 million the following summer. He would enjoy a spectacular start with the Giallorossi, thriving under current Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, scoring seven times in his first eight appearances of 2011/12.
That form would see Borini win a place in the Italian national team for the first and only time, playing in a friendly against the US in February and travelling with the Azzurri to that summer’s European Championships. His return to the Premier League was confirmed shortly afterwards, and he revealed a surprising reason behind that switch in an interview with FourFourTwo as he said:
"The fans played a big part. When I was with Italy at Euro 2012, I was talking to Balotelli about England, and he told me that Liverpool had the most exciting fans to play in front of, he described it as a beautiful experience. I became aware that Brendan Rodgers wanted me, and once I got the official request I knew what to do. I spoke with Roma to discuss it and we came to an agreement."
A succession of injuries to his foot and shoulder blighted Borini’s debut season there and he would move to Sunderland on loan for the 2013/14 season, endearing himself to the club’s supporters with a string of hugely important goals. He found the net in the local derby with Newcastle, against Manchester United in the League Cup Semi-Final and subsequent loss in the Final to Manchester City, while a goal against West Bromwich Albion in May ensured the Black Cats would retain their top flight status for another year.
Returning to Liverpool after refusing a £14 million deal to move to the Stadium of Light permanently, he was reassured by Rodgers who told reporters last December that “Fabio has his own mind, his own way of thinking and he didn’t feel that Sunderland was the club that was his next step.” Adding that he didn’t think the striker would regret his decision to stay, Borini might feel differently after making just three league starts last term.
With those aforementioned deals seeing Benteke and Origi arriving, it seems almost certain that Borini and Balotelli will leave, with Liverpool clearly open to offers for both players. Yet there are also far fewer takers for the Italian duo than in years past, with the strongest rumours linking the former with newly-promoted minnows Carpi, who are set for their first ever Serie A campaign.
Borini’s agent Marco De Marchi insists “there are teams from all over Europe interested in him,” telling the Corriere dello Sport that his client “feels like a lion in a cage.” He is unlikely to command a similar fee to the one Sunderland were prepared to pay just twelve months ago however, his difficult season and the fact his contract expires in June 2016 certain to affect his value on the open market.
Once voted one of Europe’s most promising youngsters, the 24-year-old joins Balotelli, Andrea Dossena and Alberto Aquilani as Italians who have failed to make the grade at Liverpool.
His next move could prove pivotal in his career, and if he can rediscover his best form - dropping deep before utilising his pace to race behind defenders and showing a ruthless touch in front of goal – he might one day add a second Italy cap to his collection.
The wait for Fabio Borini continues.
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