On-loan Sunderland attacker Fabio Borini got his second goal inside five days yesterday evening having tucked one away in AC Milan’s Europa League tie with Bulgarian champions PFC Ludogorets.
The man signed from Liverpool in 2015 has struggled for playing time since Gennaro Gattuso was named as manager of the Rossoneri in late November, but will have done plenty to impress his boss having broken his goalscoring drought in their weekend league win over S.P.A.L.
Borini replaced Hakan Calhanoglu from the bench in the 75th minute in Razgrad with the game already basically won, but was able to to put it to bed after getting on the end of Franck Kessié’s cross with a fine finish that went beyond Renan in the Ludogorets goal and into the back of the net.
In a week where other Sunderland loanees have also excelled, Borini is making all the right noises having struggled to hold down a spot in the side since arriving in Milan last summer.
Under their former boss, Vincenzo Montella, Fabio played in a variety of different positions - including right wing back, on both flanks and at centre forward - and was seen as a utility man with the ability to ‘do a job’ in a number of roles across the pitch.
I can’t profess to having seen a great deal of Borini in the red and back this season, but we do, as always, know just the person. Peter Coiley - writer for SBNation site The AC Milan Offside - dropped by Roker Report HQ for an espresso and a quick chat in order to give us an update on how Sunderland’s £10m-man is doing back in his homeland.
RR: Fabio Borini hasn’t really played much under Gennaro Gattuso but has scored two goals this week. Do you think there’s a chance he’ll be afforded an increased role in the side?
AC Milan Offside: It’ll depend on how well guys like Abate and Hakan play because he’ll typically fill one of their roles if needed. But the second Hakan starts playing poorly, Gattuso switches to looking at Borini or Montolivo/Locatelli in the midfield, putting Bonaventura on the left wing. I think he may see a starting role this weekend against Sampdoria.
RR: Interesting. It’s understood that there’s an obligation for Milan to buy Borini upon the completion of his loan, a deal worth £5.3m. Do you think this represents good value for Milan, and do you think there’s a long-term future there at the club for Fabio?
AC Milan Offside: I think that’s a fair valuation based on what we’ve gotten out of him. Not much was expected and he even got player of the month from our site because of the work he put in. He adapts to the role he’s asked to play in without the slightest look of anger. I think he could be there for a while but he may itch to get more playing time, and could be better off at a place like Sassuolo or Verona - someplace that could use him more regularly.
RR: I suppose it’s an issue we had ourselves with Borini here, and when he played for Liverpool - finding a settled role for him in the team is difficult. He’s not particularly outstanding in any position, which is why he gets moved around so much. How do fans of AC Milan typically view Fabio - do they like him?
AC Milan Offside: They love him. He gets the respect because his work rate is phenomenal. He’s not the most technically gifted which I can imagine is one of the reasons settling into one offensive role is difficult for him, but he gives 110% every time he’s on the field and that’s what’s asked in Italian football. If he loses the ball, he goes back to get it without taking a moment to sulk.
Interesting stuff. Having lost his mojo when playing under the boring and predictable tutelege of David Moyes last season, it would appear that a move back to Italy in order to kick-start his career with a big club has done him the world of good.
As mentioned in the chat with Peter, Sunderland loaned Borini to Milan with an obligation to purchase for a fee of £5.3m. The details of that payment have never been made entirely clear, but had been assumed to be payable come the end of the season.
The Rossoneri’s initial approaches for Borini were rejected by Sunderland but in the end, Milan paid a small loan fee and agreed to pay the player’s wages in full, with three or four payments of the £5.3m to be wired to Wearside - starting in the summer of 2018.
Sunderland Chief Executive Martin Bain has already indicated Borini’s move to Milan being made a permanent one is a mere formality. If it was appearance-related, the clause has probably already been triggered with the attacker having started 15 games in Serie A this season.