GUS POYET might not want to give up on Fabio Borini – but the time has surely come for Sunderland to tell the intractable Italian that their interest in him is at an end.

In the wake of Thursday’s friendly win over Real Betis, Poyet pretty much admitted that his refusal to draw a line under the Borini saga was preventing him from pursuing alternative attacking targets.

That cannot be a good thing given that Sunderland arguably need two more strikers – potentially three if Connor Wickham’s contract stand-off is not successfully resolved – and that clubs invariably drive up their prices as the transfer deadline approaches.

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It’s all very well sitting by the phone waiting for a response from Borini or his agents, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense when other targets are out there, potentially getting snapped up by other clubs while Sunderland dither.

It’s also hard to get from away from the view that if Borini was going to say yes to a return to Wearside, he would surely have done so by now.

But even if Borini was to eventually agree to the proposed terms of a £14m move from Liverpool, do Sunderland really want to be spending that kind of money on a player who clearly has major reservations about spending next season at the Stadium of Light?

To a certain extent, it can be argued that any top player would view a club like Sunderland – or Newcastle United as well for that matter – as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

But few have been as blatant about it as Borini. He is clearly waiting for all his options to become evident before deciding on his future, and it’s increasingly hard to deny that Sunderland have become his fallback option in case nothing else becomes available.

Had a leading European side come in for him, or had Brendan Rodgers given even the slightest indication that he could play a major role at Anfield next season, do we really think Borini would still be keeping Sunderland hanging as he is?

After struggling in front of goal last season, Sunderland need their star striker to be 100 per cent committed to the cause next term. By all accounts, Borini is a thoroughly likeable bloke whose commitment never wavered during last season’s relegation battle.

But he’s hardly jumped at the chance of a return, and if he does eventually end up back at the Stadium of Light, it’ll feel like he’s had to settle for second best. And that won’t be a good position for anyone to be in.