It’s a question that has probably crossed the minds of many Liverpool FC fans. And probably fleetingly.
Can Fabio Borini really fill Luis Suarez's boots?
Because, quite simply, the answer is “no.” They are the size nines worn by a man who could potentially be the Golden Boot runner-up despite missing the last four games of the season through suspension. These are the almost-golden boots that Fabio Borini, given the chance, would be expected to fill.
Transfermarkt.co.uk offers a direct head-to-head appraisal of the Uruguayan and Italian strikers. But this is perhaps a skewed viewpoint. What Luis Suarez offers the Mersey giants lacks true comparison. And even if there was a like-for-like matchup with his striking compatriots, the Italian international is neither mirror nor smoke. Lacking the pace of Sturridge and guile of Suarez, his strength is in his ability to finish.
His 25 percent goals-per-shots-on-goal ratio in the English Premier League this season would seem to make a liar of that statement. However, in the Serie A at AS Roma last year, in 24 appearances, he netted nine goals on 17 attempts on target. Luis Suarez’s 23 goals in the 33 top flight matches were courtesy of a 32 percent goals-per-shot-on-goal ratio.
B/R Featured Columnist Richard Morgan’s article How can Liverpool Get Fabio Borini Firing explores what would be needed to get the young Italian on track. As in any striker, confidence is a must. Sporadic and short-lived appearances aren’t conducive to promoting it.
Playing full matches in his favored role would be paramount. But even so, would it be enough to put him in the same category as Suarez?
So perhaps the better question is, given the opportunity, will Liverpool's No. 29 be able to fill he Uruguayan’s vacant spot? Put plainly, that would come down to goal production. It is something that the ex-Roma man is capable of—even from and outside position—but something that Liverpool has yet to enjoy from the Italian.
Hindsight is always a cruel lens. And an even louder megaphone. In a Telegraph article last year, Borini stated: “I know from past experience that the goals will come. In Swansea I scored six goals from March until May. I am always late.”
On Sunday, he might well have made good on that claim. Two steps closer to Tim Howard’s goal line, Borini could have easily written himself into Anfield lore by meeting Jose Enrique’s low drive in the Merseyside Derby. Could have—seems to be the definitive verb pairing in describing Fabio Borini this season.
In fairness, this is perhaps not the season to judge him on. He can produce. While on loan at Swansea, he scored six goals in 12 games for the Swans. But two lengthy absences through injury, playing out of his favored role for the Reds and averaging a shade under 43 minutes-per-game of competitive league play, means he might never have reached his full stride.
But fairness is a luxury strikers seldom receive. Especially when they don't score. He can’t be blamed for injuries. No more than Alberto Aquilani could his. Aquilani’s story is a well-known woeful tale of limited playing time and poor performance. Borini’s goal-per-472 minutes doesn’t make for happy reading, either.
The Bentivoglio native is barely 22 years old and Brendan Rodgers has obviously seen something that he thinks merited his hefty £11 million asking price. Borini has time to develop. Chances are though, it will be somewhere else.
In spite of the Sturridge signing, the Liverpool boss will have to pad the front man position against injuries, suspensions and a missing Luis Suarez this offseason. Borini probably understands that, yet has stated that he wants to stay at Anfield and prove his worth (via Express).
Even so, is unlikely that Borini will see many starts next year. However, with Rodgers not willing to give up on him quite yet, a loan spell would seem to fit the bill. It could be how he eventually gets to write his name on the starting XI sheet. If not in Luis Suarez’s boots, then right next to them.