As Sunderland fans, we are romantics. It's this romanticism which compels us to keep following Sunderland despite our team falling short in a results driven business. It is this same romanticism, not the player's ability, which saw us pine so longingly for Fabio Borini as soon as the season ended, and breaks our hearts slightly that he didn't end up joining. In emotional times however we should remain logical. For whatever reason the deal didn't come off, and that's a sickener, but we must be sure to remember this summer window not for the lack of Borini, but for the addition and departure of key individuals.
I can't claim that Borini isn't a talent, as he so clearly is, but he's a raw talent. He is a visible athlete, is tall enough to compete in the air but petite enough to maintain sharpness and speed. His technique is also excellent, perhaps best displayed by his outside of the foot cup final goal. The problem with Borini is his decision making, he has all the drive and determination to bomb up the left hand side into the box, but it was evident so many times last season that when the opportunity arises, Fabio will take a second too long to make his decision.
It's as though he stares at the ball and a thousand things fly through his mind, he has so many tricks and traits, can hit a wicked cross or have a go himself, he knows this and it makes him hesitate. He is burdened by his own natural ability in some respects. Fabio is a player with many limitations and our measure of him as a player has been compromised by the context and importance of the goals he scored.
Having said that, for £14m Borini would have been ideal in terms of valuation. Paying in excess of £10m for an 18 year old is madness in most cases, so many things can go wrong before a player of that age will hit his prime, not to mention the pressure to convince said player to sign a new contract (sound familiar?), but at 23 years old, Borini is at the time in his career where he can fill out his potential by shaking that indecisiveness, developing mental strength to compliment his obvious talents and perhaps most importantly nail down a run in a first team. It's disappointing that it won't be in our first team, but slightly satisfying in a facetious way knowing it won't be Liverpool's either.
Blinded by our lust for Italian blood, we may not have noticed that Gus Poyet and Lee Congerton were working hard to bring in quality players without putting us out of business. It's been clear since the beginning of last year when Margaret Byrne put it in plain English for us, that finances are a problem at SAFC. We are still trying to right the wrongs of Roy Keane and Steve Bruce in that department.
Financial Fair Play, which has more ins and outs than my tiny mind can fathom, must also be complied with now, meaning the wage bill is always at the forefront of our concerns. All 20 football clubs in the Premier League are technically in the same boat, but not really. Our boat is already full of holes and club officials are doing their best to first get rid of the water weighing us down before finding a way to repair the holes.
Poyet and Congerton should be praised heavily for the way this window panned out. They managed to bring in some very tidy players whilst getting rid of some of the dregs. We found buyers for Ignacio Scocco and Alfred N'Diaye whilst coming to terms with Modibo Diakite, not to mention the release of 10 others including Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena and REDACTED.
We first saw a trio of free transfers join Sunderland, each celebrated and each with Premier League experience. While Billy Jones is clearly burdened by injury, both Costel Pantilimon and Jordi Gomez are healthy and talented enough to drop in and out of the first team if required. The acquisition of Patrick van Aanholt for mere buttons given he is a young full Dutch international was an accomplishment in itself, but the fact that he plays in a position which arguably hasn't been occupied permanently since Micky Gray made the transfer an extremely important one.
Will Buckley did not excite me, I was blissfully unaware of him as a player, but seeing the lad do his thing against Man Utd was an eye-opener. Assuming he didn't just give the performance of his career that afternoon, £2.5m for a winger who consistently beats his man and penetrates the penalty area equates to theft on our part. If we had bought him from another Premier League side, or he was European, we'd have paid double that. Bargain.
The best pieces of business however are yet to be spoken of. Jack Rodwell arrived for a fee between £6m and £10m depending on whether you live in Sunderland or Manchester. Rodwell has been desperately unlucky with injuries and has not quite reached the dizzy heights he was expected to, but this move was right for both parties. We needed a strong, imposing centre midfielder to play alongside Cattermole, tidying it up at the back and setting chances up going forward, allowing room for the 'flair' player (likely Gomez or Larsson) in front of him, he needed a club where he'd be a guaranteed first choice, with a fan base who wouldn't lose patience with him if he wasn't always fit. Sunderland is a brilliant match for him and this deal will prove to be one of our wisest in recent history.
We also did well to bring in Sebastian Coates and Ricky Alvarez on loan. It was evident that we needed more defenders, especially with Vergini being played down the right in the absence of Jones. Coates is a very highly rated centre back, and at the young age of 23 he will be playing alongside defenders more than 10 years his senior, he has his whole career ahead of him. 15 appearances for Uruguay will tell you he isn't simply another Liverpool spelk collector, in fact he almost single handedly ran their defence in pre-season. He is already a very established and capable player. This was a much wiser deal than the much rumoured addition of Kurt Zouma, a younger centre back with no Premier League experience, who would almost certainly have taken at least until christmas to get up to speed, and even then he wouldn't be on par with O'Shea and Brown. Coates, although not a glamour signing, is a better signing than 'the next big thing' before he is 'big'.
Ricky Alvarez is another player that we had no right to sign. The lad has played nearly 100 times for Inter Milan in 3 seasons and is a full Argentina international, playing in the last World Cup. This is where the uncertainty comes in; we wanted Borini, we ended up with Alvarez. How does that work? Alvarez is by no means a consolation prize, he is in fact an improvement on our primary summer target.
Here's what has happened; Poyet has told Congerton he wants Borini, Congerton has tried to get Borini and failed. He has come back to Poyet with a better player, Poyet has snapped his hand off and we have brought that player in on loan with an option to buy for a reasonable fixed price, provided that we stay up. If he's a flop, we'll send him back to Inter. When he's a success, we'll buy him outright and Borini will be banished to the back of our minds, joining the likes of Alan Hutton and Nedum Onuoha, players we wanted, but in hindsight we dodged the bullet on.
Our focus on Fabio has distracted us from what a brilliant transfer window we've actually had, one in which we haven't broke the bank but have still brought in a handful of quality players, a step up from the bunch which Paolo criticised so much. We've also done wonders for the wage bill, and I'd like to think the long term future of our club is looking a lot more colourful than it was this time last year. There's also cash left in the kitty for January, something we haven't allowed ourselves in seasons past.
This window should be considered a sign of things to come, a new Sunderland who spend money wisely and do not give in to ridiculous wage demands from players and agents. A regime where recruitments are calculated and rational, and players are bought because they are needed, not simply because they are available. Maybe it's the altitude and my new seat at the top of the East Stand is making me dizzy, but I consider our summer to a resounding success and look forward to the future of Sunderland AFC with Poyet and Congerton steering the ship, plugging up the holes as they go along.