The loan system has come under fierce criticism in recent seasons. Watford’s “Loan Army” in 2012-13 season, who missed out on promotion in the Play-Off Final, began the season with 14 loanees in the squad. Although nothing underhand was done, the sustainability of it was widely questioned, and there were even calls for FIFA to amend the rules surrounding the loan system as a result. As with everything though, there are examples of how the loan system can benefit all parties involved, as with Gerard Deulofeu. The Barcelona youngster joined Everton on loan at the beginning of the 2013-14 season knowing that his first team opportunities with his parent club would be restricted, especially after the big money summer signing of Neymar. Likewise is the case for Fabio Borini.
Questions were asked of Liverpool, and indeed manager Brendan Rodgers, after forking out around £10.5million for the Italian in summer of 2012. An injury hit first season at Anfield resulted in 13 League appearances, and only one league goal. One thing Borini needed above all was a clean bill of health, coupled with an extended run in the team – something that Liverpool could not offer. Loaning Borini out seemed the best option for Liverpool, who specifically looked for a suitable Premier League team to give the striker a chance to become more accustomed to the Premier League.
In his short career so far, Borini hasn’t really settled at a single club for an extended period of time. Coming through the Chelsea youth system, Borini suffered the same fate as teammates (at the time) Nemanja Matic, Miroslav Stoch and Scott Sinclair in being sold on. He did however show glimpses of his ability when loaned out to Swansea in a two month deal. 6 Goals in 8 games including winning a penalty in the Play-Off Final sealed Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers.
Borini made it clear to Chelsea that he wanted to move on after returning from his loan deal. He impressed enough in his short time at Swansea to have many Italian clubs chasing his signature, eventually joining Parma on a pre contract – and then Roma on loan in the same window. 9 Goals in 24 League games in his first spell back in Italy was a good return, but the summer window, again, meant another move for the Italian. Borini became Brendan Rodgers first signing as Liverpool manager, and began the season playing from the left wing. A goal in his first game at Anfield against FC Gomel in the Europa League looked to set him on his way. However, a broken foot in October and a dislocated shoulder in February meant that Borini missed a combined 5 months of the season, finishing a stop start season with a record of 20 games and 2 goals in all competitions. A major confidence boost, and a good run of fitness was needed for Borini. He had a point to prove, so a loan deal seemed just right.
A season-long loan deal with Sunderland was sealed, and finally a chance for regular first team action ensued. It didn’t take long for Borini to win the hearts of Sunderland fans. His first goal for the Black Cats came in the Tyne-Wear derby against Newcastle, leading his adopted club to a much needed 2-1 victory. In the League Cup, he scored a late equaliser against former club Chelsea, and then assisted an Extra Time winner by Ki Sung-Yeung. Cup goals against Manchester United and a fantastic opener in the League Cup Final against Manchester City; before eventually losing 3-1, followed. Borini then scored a massive goal in deciding the Premier League title – scoring a late penalty against Chelsea, all the while inflicting Chelsea’s first ever home defeat under Jose Mourinho. Sunderland then secured their Premier League status as Borini scored against fellow strugglers Cardiff and West Brom, and then against Swansea on the final day of the season. By all accounts, his 10 Goals in 40 Games in all competitions for Sunderland was seen as a resounding success, and an example of how the loan system can be utilised for the better. The Italian’s efforts were recognised in Sunderland’s end of season awards as he won the Young Player of the Year award, and narrowly missing out on the Player of the Year award to goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Borini scored for Liverpool in his first game back in a friendly against Shamrock Rovers. He has since declared his desire to remain at Liverpool, and Brendan Rodgers has seemingly confirmed that he has a future at the club, saying “I thought he was excellent (at Sunderland). With Fabio, it was a case of we had Sturridge and Suarez who I felt would play a lot of games.”
Finishing 2nd place in the League has more than secured Liverpool’s entry into the Champions League. The additional matches that this alone will entail, as well as the FA Cup and League Cup participation will mean that Brendan Rodgers’ squad will be stretched and strained all season. And while it looks like Liverpool will keep hold of their prized asset, and Daniel Sturridge’s strike partner; Luis Suarez, squad depth will be key next season.
I believe Fabio Borini will be a hugely important part of Liverpool’s squad next season. His loan spell has given him newfound confidence in himself, and also from his manager. His sharp instincts and endless energy could allow much needed respite to “SAS” next season. His versatility will also add to his first team chances, being capable of playing as a Striker or a Winger. With Liverpool looking at numerous defensive and attacking midfield options, expect Borini to feature regularly. Who knows, he could even have a rebirth similar to that of Jordan Henderson if he can stay injury free.