SUNDERLAND have been praised by Brendan Rodgers for helping Fabio Borini to rediscover his belief before hinting the Italian could earn a Liverpool stay this summer.
Just days after playing the final game of his season-long loan at the Stadium of Light on Sunday, Borini was back in a Reds shirt on Wednesday night.
The 23-year-old scored the second goal in a 4-0 friendly win over Shamrock Rovers at the Aviva Stadium, and also hitting the post, before receiving a standing ovation from the crowd in Dublin.
It was the sort of display which suggested he is determined to carry on the good work he has put in at Sunderland over the last nine months and left Gustavo Poyet wanting to work with him again next season.
But Rodgers is keen to give Borini an opportunity on Merseyside, after the forward had been unable to live up to the £10.5m fee which Liverpool paid to Roma for him in the summer of 2012.
“I thought Fabio was excellent on Tuesday,” said the League Managers Association’s manager of the year. “With Fabio, it was just a case of us having Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, who I felt were going to play a lot of games.
“We had fewer games, no European football, and Luis is so robust and plays every minute of every game. We were always going to be limited in terms of the game time we could offer Fabio.
“I just felt for his development it was best he went on loan. It was nothing to do with me not thinking he was a quality player because I know him better than anyone.
“He needed to go out and get games, and to prove his worth and get experience, and he's done that. He has shown, especially in the big games, that he can score goals at this level. We have got back a better player.
“Now, a year later, he will come back into our squad this summer. You saw with his pace and his power and his ability to get a goal on Wednesday, he is going to add to the quality that we already have.”
Borini scored ten times in 39 appearances for Sunderland and many of his earlier outings were from the bench. His performances on Wearside, where he scored important goals in big games, were not enough to see him named in Italy’s World Cup squad.
But Borini has returned to Liverpool determined to convince Rodgers to give him another go, with Champions League guaranteeing more matches next season, so a larger squad will be required.
Rodgers is looking to invest heavily on new players before August and his transfer fund will be increased by selling some of his fringe players. Borini, Daniel Agger and Lucas are three of his most saleable.
However, Borini will not be sold on the cheap and, because he is in no rush to offload, Rodgers is only likely to consider offers in the region of the £10.5m paid for him. That could be enough to put off Sunderland.
Borini enjoyed his time in the North-East. He said: “I learned more about the game, to wait and adapt during the game. Before, I found that more difficult.
“I was starting the game one way and finishing the same, now I can change my game and adapt to what is actually happening on the pitch.”