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Fabio Borini's fall from grace: How the now AC Milan man went from hero to zero at SAFC

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Peace out Fabio Borini - a loan signing that promised so much inevitably turned into a multi-million pound flop. Another familiar fable in Sunderland's Premier League demise.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Fabio Borini has signed for AC Milan. You know, that Fabio Borini has signed for that AC Milan. One of football’s all-time superpowers... is moving to AC Milan.

I jest, but I assume that this is the thought going through the mind of Sunderland’s outgoing number nine. Like he somehow deserved a move of such magnitude off the back of his completely ineffective second-spell on Wearside.

It’s quite hard to think of a bigger heel turn in professional sport than Fabio Borini’s fall from grace at Sunderland. While it's not quite Stone Cold Steve Austin siding with Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania 17, it is a stunning achievement from a player that was the darling of Sunderland supporters just four years ago.

Let me take you back to the halcyon days of 2013. A time before Brexit, before we knew what Donald Trump actually did, when David Moyes was settling into the big job at Manchester United and when we were still reeling from the finale of Breaking Bad. In the autumnal sunshine against our nearest and dearest from up the road, a young man introduced himself and etched his names onto our hearts.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

A dashing Italian by the name of Fabio, rifling a football past Tim Krul to win us a second consecutive derby game. We were all running out the stadium with our hands lodged firmly in our jaw, arms aloft. We would be doing the same on the streets of Tyneside in the following February and even in the stands of Wembley Stadium a month later, albeit momentarily.

Alongside the perfectly coiffured hair of Connor Wickham, he helped us stave off relegation and as Gustavo Poyet looked across the rain-soaked turf he thought “that’s my man”. And this is where it went wrong.

The protracted transfer saga of 2014 was the first sign of what we could expect from Borini in the years to come. There is no shame in having the belief in yourself to aim for a higher level but when you’re actively told by your manager that you don’t feature in his plans the penny has to drop. Brendan Rodgers did not see where the Italian fitted in at Liverpool and actively wanted to sell but it was not to be.

As the final days of August 2015, and Big Lee ‘Congers’ Congerton scrabbled around for any form of other striker, he paused and thought "who could I bring in that would appease supporters after another winless start to the season?" Enter a beaming (newly tanned) familiar face rocking through the door. With promises of a deep burning love of the club, he was back. Borini was back. And at that moment, one thing seemed evident. He had settled.

The fanfare surrounding his arrival was to be expected. A player that has scored goals against Newcastle and in a cup final tugs at the heartstrings of a supporter but as a former teammate remarked “he thinks he should be playing for Barcelona, not Sunderland”.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

There was a sense that Sunderland was below him, consistent moaning that he wasn't played in the right position on top of the numerous outbursts with managers. Pathetic goal celebrations in front of both Sam Allardyce and David Moyes after being (rightfully, in each case) dropped from the starting eleven or the squad entirely.

That doe-eyed appreciation supporters had for the Italian dissipated rapidly during the course of the 2016/17 campaign. Even the goodwill gained from those stellar performances in key matches during his loan spell was soon being erased as what supporters increasingly saw was abject displays from a player looking for the earliest opportunity to leave.

A bizarre stunt at the end of a poignantly toxic game at Middlesbrough when his response to the chant of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” directed at the entire squad was to give his jersey to a Boro fan. While the incident may have been misconstrued it was the final straw for many fans and his imminent departure is being greeted with almost as much fanfare as his arrival.

It is a sad end to a Sunderland career that promised so much (a familiar pattern for many of our playing squad of the past five years, admittedly). So, enjoy Milan, Fabio, you jammy so-and-so.

I really wish I had an agent as good as yours.