Sunderland supporters don’t need reminding that prolific goalscoring is not one of Fabio Borini’s strong points. The Italian striker may have developed a reputation of a penalty-box poacher when emerging through Chelsea’s academy, and during goal-laden loan spells at Swansea City and AS Roma, but that clinical finishing deserted him on Wearside.
Borini netted a steady if far from spectacular seven Premier League goals in 32 games during a loan spell at Sunderland from Liverpool in 2013/14. And, after moving to the Stadium of Light in 2015 on a permanent basis for a fee of around £8 million (The Guardian), the 26-year-old notched just seven times across two seasons.
Eyebrows were understandably raised, then, when big-spending Italian giants AC Milan signed Borini on loan this summer. With some of Europe’s hottest young talents, not to mention perennial Serie A champion Leonardo Bonucci arriving at the San Siro, one wondered how on earth Borini would fit in.
Coach Vincenzo Montella has found a way, however – by reinventing Borini as a hard-working wing-back. And, so far, Milan have been rewarded by some surprisingly effective performances from a player who has outshone a number of his more vaunted, more expensive, team-mates.
Borini set up two goals in the recent 3-2 Europa League win over Rijeka, including a sublime lofted assist to create the last-gasp winner for Patrick Cutrone. And, after impressing with his industry and attacking intent in the defeat to Roma prior to the international break, Borini assisted another goal as Milan went down 3-2 to rivals Inter on Sunday.
Borini’s lack of goals was a constant source of criticism during his time at Sunderland but perhaps the Italian deserves a break. After all, he’s proving in Milan that he is far more effective in an entirely different role.