Fabio Borini has confirmed his intentions to return to Liverpool from his loan spell at Sunderland at the end of the season in quotes picked up by Jason Mellor of the Daily Star, but whether the Reds will welcome him back with open arms is another question.
There’s no doubt that sending Borini on loan this season was the right idea. After just 20 appearances and two goals in his debut season for Liverpool, the Italian needed regular game time in English football.
Richard Morgan wrote on Bleacher Report in September:
So in many ways, it really is a win-win situation for both Liverpool and Borini himself, as instead of languishing on the bench on Merseyside all season, the Italian can instead play regularly as a striker in the Premier League and come back to Anfield a better, more confident and experienced player as a result.
Now Borini is looking sharper, more focused and happier in front of goal.
However, despite his better fortunes of late, Borini may still be somewhat of a disappointment for Brendan Rodgers, who hailed him as “arguably the best physical player I've worked with in terms of his pace, power and fitness,” to the Daily Mirror upon his arrival in July 2012.
After all, Rodgers had previously seen Borini score six goals in nine appearances when working with him at Swansea in 2011, before he scored nine goals in 24 Serie A appearances for Roma in 2011/12.
It is easy to overhype Borini’s better fortunes for more than they’re worth. He has been far from relegation-candidate Sunderland’s first name on the teamsheet, and his big moments for the Black Cats, though important, have been few and far between.
Based solely on his 16 Premier League appearances this season, Borini has scored just once. He has a shot accuracy record of just 53 percent and has created just five chances, according to Squawka.
Borini wins just 41 percent of his duels, and only 33 percent in the air, and goes for long periods of games looking vacant and missing from the action.
Is Borini the Right Forward for Liverpool?
Nevertheless, Rodgers and Liverpool could do with another striker to provide both backup for Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, as well as an attacking threat from the bench.
The dismal failure of Iago Aspas this season echoes reminders of Borini’s first season at the club; however, the Italian has one advantage over the Spaniard: being four years younger.
Rodgers would do well to be cautious in deciding the fate of Borini. The improvement in his football at Sunderland is still a long way off what Rodgers hopes would be a Champions League striker next season.
In a Bleacher Report article in December, Matt Ladson, too, questioned whether Borini has the potential to be a significant part of Liverpool again:
Whether Borini has a future at Liverpool is again difficult to judge; Rodgers clearly rates him, but will the Italian ever establish himself as a first-choice player? Unlikely.
So if he has a future it will be short-term as a squad player, before eventually moving to fulfil his potential elsewhere.
Borini’s well-publicised goals in the thrilling Wear-Tyne derby and to help Sunderland in the League Cup have helped raise the question over the possibility of a future at Liverpool.
However, on a game-to-game basis the forward remains inconsistent and lacking of the calibre Rodgers hoped he would be.
Furthermore, Rodgers may well look to bring in another forward, or attacking player, to bolster his options for the remainder of the season—a signing that would surely signal an end to Borini's chances of playing for Liverpool again.