GUS POYET has vowed to do ‘everything possible’ to bring Fabio Borini back to Sunderland – but will not allow the protracted negotiations with the player to distract him from strengthening other areas of the squad.
Sunderland agreed a deal with Liverpool on Friday worth up to £14million, but Borini subsequently featured in the Reds’ pre-season game at Preston before jetting to America for a tour with the squad.
It has been suggested that Borini would rather fight for a place at Liverpool with the incentive of Champions League football, while last night it was rumoured that Juventus were interested in bringing the forward to Turin on loan.
But Poyet, speaking after last night’s 1-0 friendly victory at Carlisle United, is remaining positive that Sunderland can get their man.
“At the moment, it’s as it was the other day,” said Poyet, after Mikael Mandron scored the only goal of the game at Brunton Park. “The agreement was with the club, not the player. We need to get in touch with the player and the agent and we can start negotiating.
“You never know how long that would take. At the moment we have no news to give, so we need to keep negotiating so we can close that deal completely.
“It’s up to Fabio. We have been clear, there is no doubt about the connection, no doubt about the player, the way we get on together. It’s up to Fabio to make the decision to come back.
“Every day changes. We’ve started already, we cannot stop. There are other options but we have committed, we have an agreement with Liverpool and we will do everything possible to get Fabio back to the club.”
Sunderland’s acquisition of Borini, which would include an initial fee of around £10m, will take up a large chunk of the club’s transfer budget, and Poyet is keen not to let the saga disrupt any other irons the club has in the fire.
“We’re not a one-player team,” explained Poyet. “We’ve committed to this, he is the type of player we are looking for. I’m looking now to get the rest of the squad. Not just the one player that everyone wants to see. It’s about the whole squad.
“Harry (Charis Mavrias) played right-back, at Hartlepool we will have Watmore and Ferguson. Apart from Borini, there are other issues to sort out as well.”
Reports suggested yesterday that Sunderland’s pursuit of Marcos Alonso, which would include Modibo Diakite going the other way, had taken a backwards step, but the Uruguayan denied that, adding: “It’s close, but not close enough. Everything is on track. For all the deals to come together everyone needs to be happy and it’s not easy.
“We need to look at the figures as well, because depending on how much you pay for a player you’ve got the rest to consider.
“ If you spend it all on one, we’d have to go and play tennis because we won’t have an XI. There are numbers that I need to manage. We’re trying hard. It has been a bit more difficult than I expected.”
Sunderland named a strong starting XI, with Vito Mannone in goal, as Costel Pantilimon will start tonight in the Black Cats’ friendly at Hartlepool alongside the players that were not involved in Cumbria last night.
Mavrias played an hour at right-back with new signing Billy Jones once again in the left-back position as Sunderland strive to recruit new players.
Despite the gulf in quality, Carlisle, relegated from League One last season, were the better team in the first half, with Billy Paynter and David Amoo both impressing on the ball.
Gus Poyet gave 30-minute run-outs to several under-21 players including Mikael Mandron, George Honeyman and Liam Agnew, while Tom McNamee was an early replacement for Diakite, who was taken off as a precaution with a knee complaint.
And it was Mandron who netted what turned out to be the winner for the visitors, with a composed finish past Carlisle goalkeeper Mark Gillespie, shortly after his introduction on the hour mark.
It represented a good workout for Poyet’s side, with the Sunderland manager’s plan to bring players in before the trip to Portugal on Friday looking increasingly slim.
And Poyet said: “We’re trying. We need to move quickly because Portugal is approaching and we need to get most of the squad together before then.
“My idea was to have, out of my squad of 25, 20 in Portugal, but that’s not the case. I’m working, I keep believing, nothing changes that, the situation is ongoing. It’s not easy. The market is only big, big signings, the rest are waiting – I don’t know why – it’s not my job though. You need to ask Lee Congerton this.
“I’m delighted for the kids tonight. I told them “what a chance you have to win the game for us” – they were desperate and they celebrated the goal like we’d qualified for Europe. It shows the desire we need at the football club.”
CARLISLE UNITED: Gillespie, Symington, Grainger (Gillies 65), Potts, O’Hanlon, Archibald-Henville (Thirlwell 66), Amoo (Rigg 81), Sweeney (Dempsey 81), Paynter, Kearns (Meppen-Walter 65), Brough.
SUNDERLAND: Mannone (Dixon 60); Mavrias (Dixon 60), Diakite (McNamee 29), Brown (Beadling 60), Jones (Robson 60); Moberg-Karlsson (Gooch 53), Cabral (Smith 60), N'Diaye (Honeyman 60), Gomez (Agnew 60); Giaccherini (Lawson 60); Wickham (Mandron 60).