FABIO BORINI is keen to keep his options open for as long as possible despite Sunderland having agreed a £14m fee for his services on Friday evening.
Borini was part of the Liverpool squad that flew to the United States yesterday afternoon ahead of a pre-season tour that may not end until August 4, a move that indicates his reluctance to make an immediate move to the Stadium of Light.
Reports emerged in Italy over the weekend suggesting the striker had rejected the opportunity to re-sign for Sunderland, and while that is not the case, sources close to the move claim Borini has expressed reservations about rejoining a Black Cats side that was battling against relegation until the final week of last season.
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Having previously spoken of his desire to play in the Champions League next season, the 23-year-old is keen to assess all potential options before deciding on his future, in the hope that other clubs may enter the fray with alternative offers.
Borini has, however, accepted that he does not really have a future at Anfield, with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers confident of completing a deal for former Newcastle United loanee Loic Remy.
At the moment, Sunderland are the only club to have had a bid accepted for Borini, and both sporting director Lee Congerton and head coach Gustavo Poyet remain hopeful of completing a deal.
The Italian’s presence in the United States should not prevent them from initiating personal talks with Borini and his representatives, and previous transfer deals have seen Liverpool release one of their players from a pre-season tour in order for them to complete a switch.
However, there will be a limit to how long Sunderland can wait for an answer, as a significant proportion of Poyet’s transfer budget is tied up in a potential deal and alternative options will have to be assessed quickly if Borini ultimately refuses to return to Wearside.
Sunderland kicked off their pre-season preparations with a 5-1 win over Darlington on Saturday, but post-match discussions were dominated by Borini’s future, with members of the current squad quick to underline just how valuable the striker’s permanent return would be.
“It would be a really big deal for the club,” said Seb Larsson, who signed a new deal of his own this summer. “Fabio was here last year and did really well, so he knows the place and we know him. Of course that would be a great signing, but it’s for the people behind the scenes to deal with and we’ll have to see if it gets over the line.
“He showed last year just what a good player he is. Especially in the second half of the season, he showed what he can do for the club. We all know what he can bring to the team, and you need as many good players as you can to help improve the competition in the squad. If Fabio returns, it will help everyone else drive on and get better.”
Poyet had hoped to speak to Borini prior to Saturday’s friendly at Heritage Park, but Sunderland officials did not receive written permission to initiate personal talks in time and the striker instead played for more than an hour of Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Preston.
“We have agreed terms with Liverpool,” said the Black Cats boss. “We are now waiting for correspondence, and we will go from there. We’re just waiting.
“I think (Fabio’s) impact is clear, as is the reason why we want to spend that quantity of money. We know how much he can give us because we know him perfectly. It would be perfect for us.”
Poyet is also hoping to complete the re-signing of full-back Marcos Alonso before his squad leaves for a training camp in Portugal at the end of the week.
After weeks of negotiations, Congerton is finally close to agreeing a deal with Fiorentina that will see Sunderland pay around £2.2m for Alonso, with Modibo Diakite also heading in the opposite direction.
“That’s been an ongoing situation, and it’s gone on a little bit longer than expected,” said Poyet. “But you need to have everything in place, and it does not depend only on us. It also depends on other people as well, so you need to keep negotiating. It’s up to Lee and the recruitment system, which are doing their work.”
Sunderland have made three free signings so far this summer – Costel Pantilimon, Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez – but even if Borini and Alonso are added to that list, the new squad will not look too much stronger than the one that scrambled to safety in the final week of last season.
Further reinforcements are surely required, especially in the back four, but having watched a number of Premier League clubs pay what he feels are exorbitant fees already this summer, Poyet is urging Sunderland supporters to remain patient.
“There is a reason behind everything,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a strange summer for me, with the World Cup in the middle, and with people buying players for too much money. So we need to stay calm and make sure we do things slowly, but buy in the right way.”
Saturday’s win over Darlington featured a first-half double from Steven Fletcher, who marked his return from a four-month injury absence by rounding off moves that also featured trialist Max Clayton, a 19-year-old forward who is being considered for the development squad after his previous contract at Crewe expired.
Poyet changed his entire side at the interval, and second-half goals from Emmanuel Giaccherini and Connor Wickham extended Sunderland’s lead.
Darlington grabbed a consolation when an error from Wes Brown enabled Gary Brown to drill home, but the Black Cats added a fifth late on when Gomez found the net from outside the area.
First Half (4-4-2): Jameson; Brown, Hunter, Hatch, Walker; Mitchell, Galbraith, Portas, Purewal; Thompson, Armstrong.
Second Half (4-5-1): Bell; Brown, Hunter, White, Galbraith (Walker 49); Fisher, Mitchell (Cocks 79), Portas, Hopson, Purewal; Hatch (Fryatt 74).
First Half (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Watmore, O’Shea, Roberge, Jones; Cabral; Honeyman, Larsson, Ba, Clayton; Fletcher.
Second Half (4-1-4-1): Pantilimon; Mavrias, Brown, Diakite, Ferguson; Cattermole; Karlsson, N’Diaye, Giaccherini, Gomez; Wickham.