AFTER helping Sunderland pull off the greatest of relegation escapes, Fabio Borini admits the experience will help shape the rest of his career ahead of an uncertain summer.
Borini would prefer for Liverpool, his parent club, to have been impressed sufficiently by his performances on Wearside to give him a greater chance to shine next season at Anfield.
The 23-year-old struggled to make an impact in his first year with the Reds following a £10.5m switch from Roma in July 2012 and that prompted the temporary season-long loan to Sunderland last September.
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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers knows he will need a bigger squad ahead of a Champions League return, regardless of whether or not they can pip Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table on Sunday.
Borini would like to think that he will be given another opportunity on Merseyside, believing his nine months in the North-East have made people sit up and take notice of him once more.
“I have enjoyed every second, not every minute, of it here,” said Borini. “It has been great from the fans here towards me, the city and everyone in the club. The love and friendship that they give me through the season has been incredible.
“Liverpool do need a bigger squad next season because you can’t play four competitions with the same 11 players. But it is now down to the Liverpool point of view and their sporting director. It is not down to my words.”
Asked if he would return to Sunderland if that was the message coming from Rodgers, Borini said: “It depends on what Liverpool say. I can’t say. I can say nothing now because anything is possible.”
Sunderland have also proven that anything is possible after somehow claiming 13 points from the last available 15 to climb up to 14th and away from relegation trouble.
Only a month ago, manager Gustavo Poyet was suggesting it would take a miracle to stay up after falling seven points adrift at the foot of the table with six matches remaining.
Borini, who took his tally to nine goals for the season with a brilliant volley against West Brom on Wednesday, has been crucial to that turnaround.
He said: “It builds your character and it makes you a lot stronger. You learn how to suffer and how to get out of hard situations and that builds you and gets you ready for anything.”
The former Chelsea youngster also hopes to have caught the eye of Italy boss Cesare Prandelli ahead of the World Cup, suggesting this season has proven he can handle the big stage – just as he thought he could.
“I have always thought I was a Premier League player, I didn’t need to play a full season for that and Liverpool wouldn’t have bought me otherwise,” said Borini.
“They bought me as a Premier League player and the injuries I could not control. This season I was injury free and I’ve shown I can play in the Premier League. You think about what you want you want to achieve, visualise it, do it in your mind, then you have to do it.
“If I go to the World Cup I will be confident, if they select me. That is another target that comes on the back of this season. I really hope I go because it would be a great achievement after playing all season with Sunderland. It is not like playing with Juventus, or the bigger clubs in Europe, so it makes it even more of an achievement if it happens.”
Borini’s final game for Sunderland before his scheduled summer departure will be against his former club Swansea City on Sunday. Courtesy of his goal, teed up by Seb Larsson’s excellent pass, and Jack Colback’s opener, the Black Cats can go in to that game without pressure.
He said: “There is a lot of happiness in the dressing room because the target has been achieved in the relegation battle and now we can think about next season and enjoy this moment.
“We always believed and we did our job. Wednesday was the last piece of the job and we made sure that it was done. We knew it was a key game to get a result. We have had a few results in our favour so we were a little bit more confident and we played good football in the first half.”
He added: “It has been a great season. I’ve had 38/40 games after a season when I was injured. It was a hard season and the hardest I’ve ever had because we have been constantly fighting, but this builds your character.
“It would be a great achievement to finish 12th now. Six weeks ago you couldn’t believe that we could finish 12th.”
One Sunderland player seemingly destined for the World Cup is Ki Sung-Yueng. The South Korean, who has been struggling with a knee injury, has played the last game of his loan from Swansea but has been name in his country's squad for this summer's finals.
* The last Sunderland game of the season tends to be hugely popular, so the club is advising its supporters to secure seats in advance of the day of the game to avoid disappointment.
Tickets are priced from £27 for adults, £23 for over-65s and £12 for under-16s. Hospitality options are also available from £55 per person.