GUSTAVO POYET would love to have Fabio Borini with him on Wearside next season, but thinks it will be harder to keep the Italian if he fires Sunderland to Premier League safety.
Despite scoring just three league goals for the Black Cats since arriving on a season-long loan last August, Borini's tendency to score at important times has made him a fans' favourite at the Stadium of Light.
He has also won over Poyet since the Uruguayan took charge in October with his approach to training and determination to improve.
The Sunderland boss is toying with the idea of playing Borini as a central striker at Norwich City this afternoon following the news Scotland striker Steven Fletcher faces further time on the sidelines with a twisted ankle.
Wherever he plays at Carrow Road, Poyet believes the 22-year-old has the qualities to keep Sunderland in the Premier League, which could effect the price-tag when he tries to sign him in the close-season if they stay up.
"If he makes us safe in the next five games then I won't play him in the next five,” said Poyet, smiling. “Then maybe everyone will forget about him. 'Fabio Borini, oh yeah rubbish,' so then we can buy him.
“I don't know if it's going to be possible. Listen, we need to be realistic which means if it's possible it would be fantastic and if it's not we are where we are. I can't change the world. But as a manager when you have a player on loan and you know him very well he's the best option to buy.
“It's because you know everything. With someone else you buy there's always something you don't know. It could be that he complains, a family issue, a training issue, it could be he's too weak, you try to know the player but there's always something you miss.
“When you have the player here for several months you know him. You know when he's good, when he's bad, how he trains, if he complains. It's the best way.
"It's out of our hands but I can tell you that we like him (Fabio) a lot and we will try. People will say the price is going up. I'm not going to lie, he's an important player, he's been great. I hope he finishes the season at the same level scoring important goals. That makes you win games, then he's the difference between the teams.”
Borini has scored six goals this season, primarily from the wider role he has taken up rather than the central position he would prefer to be playing.
The fact most of those have arrived against Newcastle or in dramatic Capital One Cup ties with Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City has earned him special adulation from the Sunderland support.
"The good thing with Fabio is he has become a hero, he has really got into the club, the fans,” said Poyet. “I think he lives football. He's a top professional. He's always on time. He's always trying to be better in training.
“He's that type of person, he's always looking after what he's eating or what he's not eating.
"And when you score goals in special games, at special times like he did it gets you closer to people and gets you to play better. He's showing what a good player he is, he can play wide, he can play up front.
"In the beginning it was me, I put my hands up and I didn't play him. It was my fault he was not playing. Now, if he's not the first one you pick, he'll be the next one. He's at that level. I think he will have a role (directly up front rather than wide) soon but it depends on Jozy Altidore, it depends on Steven Fletcher. It depends on the game so we'll see.”
Sunderland could still see plenty more from Borini before the end of the season because the former Roma forward has every intention of forcing himself on to the Italy plane to the World Cup.
Heading to Brazil in the summer is something which his Sunderland team-mate, Adam Johnson, is already resigned to missing out on. Earlier this week the Easington-born winger suggested he was overlooked for Roy Hodgson's last squad because he was not playing for a top-eight team this season.
Poyet has some sympathy for Johnson, although he does not think Hodgson has anything against the region's players in particular, even if the England boss has only made one visit to the area this season.
"When players are at teams that perform better they have a better chance for the national team,” said Poyet. “There was Forster (Fraser, Celtic keeper) in the last squad and Steven Caulker from Cardiff, a defender. I can't see much of a chance for anyone else (outside the last squad) to go to the World Cup now - except if someone is going to play for the next two months at a different level.
“I don't think it's a south, west or North-East situation, it's about performing. I think it's true (that Hodgson selects from top eight in the main) because it's natural. The best players play in the best teams.
“Matthew Le Tissier scored many goals and was the best by far but he played for Southampton (and was overlooked by England) so it's not a North-East thing - that was the south.
"It's about your team-mates and you showing something special, that you are the star. It's not about location. I know what Adam means, but if you perform well and you are consistent you are going to be there.”