Fabio Borini: From the Tawe to the Tiber

Fabio Borini may well have already booked his place on the plane to the European Championships, just weeks after he made his debut for the Azzurri in a 1-0 defeat to the USA. An early goal from the Bologna-born striker was enough to sink Palermo on Saturday night, as he recorded his tenth goal of the campaign.

It was an inspired signing by Roma, and nearly didn’t happen at all, after leaving Chelsea for Parma early in July. This news came much to the disdain of Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers, who brought Borini to the south of Wales on loan late last season and had hoped to make his move permanent.

Borini, who was captain of the Chelsea reserve side under the tutelage of Rodgers, had an immediate impact upon his reunion with the Northern Irishman in Swansea, scoring six times in nine games and winning a penalty in the victorious playoff final. But, unbeknownst to Rodgers, Borini had already signed a pre-contract agreement to join Parma at the end of the season prior to the Swansea switch.

“I sensed he was very quiet in training one day so I pulled him to one side and had a chat with him,” said Rodgers. “It had played on his mind because he’s been accepted so well. Long before we came in for him he’d already signed a pre-contract agreement with Parma, and as the love of Swansea and his life here grew, that became more difficult.”

Borini’s career took another unexpected turn after leaving for the Crociati and his home region of Emilia-Romagna, as he was snapped up by Roma on the final day of August – before ever playing a competitive game for Parma. It was originally merely a loan deal in the capital, with an initial fee of  €1.7m encompassing an option to buy for €7m.

But, ten goals and an Italy cap later, Roma have revealed that they’ll be keeping him at the Giallorossi for at least another season, signing him on a co-ownership deal. “Will he remain at Roma? Of course. We are co-owners with Parma and we agreed with Pietro Leonardi [Parma’s general manager] to renew that agreement in June, then we will discuss it next year,” explained Walter Sabatini, Roma’s director of football.

Borini himself has quite lofty ambitions, comparing himself to one of Italy’s attacking greats. “They say I am like [Filippo] Inzaghi,” he said, upon arrival at Swansea last year. “I like Inzaghi. I like the way he celebrates a goal even if his team are winning 6-0. And look at what he has won — the World Cup, two Champions Leagues and many league titles in Italy. Even if you have half his career, you will have had a great career.”

The comparison with Inzaghi is one which is accurate, if a little ambitious (for the time being, at least). He’s a quick, intelligent striker, capable of both playing off the shoulder of the last defender, and out on the wing. His 5 ft 11 frame is a surprisingly strong one, demonstrated in his superb brace against Inter earlier in the season.

Even Luis Enrique, the Roma coach, has been surprised by the form of the young striker. “Borini has surprised me and I’m happy for him. Age does not matter, the important things are his hunger and his quality,” the Spaniard commented. He’s also caught the eye of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, and his international debut late last month is surely a sign of things to come.

He’d certainly add something different to a rather immobile Italy attack, made of players like Giampaolo Pazzini and Alessandro Matri. Having played by the Tawe in Swansea and the Tiber in Rome, he’ll be hoping to add Poland and Ukraine’s river Vistula to that list by the time the summer’s out.

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Jack Sargeant

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