Chris Young’s Sunderland transfer feature: No Borini, but progress has been made

NEW BOY: Sebastian Coates.
NEW BOY: Sebastian Coates.
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SUNDERLAND’S summer transfer business concluded with a further two arrivals at the Stadium of Light yesterday after the Black Cats completed loan deals for Ricky Alvarez and Sebastian Coates.

But Gus Poyet was still left ruing the one that got away after main target Fabio Borini remained at Liverpool.

The Echo’s CHRIS YOUNG reflects on the final hours of Sunderland’s recruitment drive.

ALL SUMMER, Sunderland’s transfer business has centred around a “will he, won’t he?” pursuit.

Deals have been put on hold and enquiries not taken any further, due to Gus Poyet’s overriding desire to see Fabio Borini return to the Stadium of Light.

Even the penultimate arrival of the transfer window, Sebastian Coates, was put on ice until deadline day, just in case Sunderland were able to land Borini on a second loan deal from Liverpool.

Sunderland supporters came to terms weeks ago that Borini wasn’t coming back, even if Poyet was reluctant to accept the Black Cats would miss out on their main summer target.

And it could have been much worse.

The sight of Borini posing outside Loftus Road in a QPR shirt would have been too much to bear.

Thankfully, everyone was spared the sight of Borini signing for a club which attracted just over 16,000 home supporters on Saturday and continue to be intent on financial oblivion.

But were Sunderland right to spend so long chasing Borini?

Sunderland landed a quality solution to that left-sided forward in Ricky Alvarez yesterday and were making late enquiries over other attacking options late in the day, including Danny Welbeck.

But were all of the club’s efforts really centred on an alternative to Borini?

Although not everyone at the Stadium of Light shared Poyet’s confidence in landing Borini, it’s obviously still been at the top of the agenda.

Sunderland’s £14million offer for Borini was accepted on July 18. It didn’t take until September 1 to realise the 23-year-old was hesitant about quitting Anfield.

However, from Poyet’s point of view, Borini held understandable appeal.

Here was a player who fit seamlessly into his system, was first on and last off the training pitch, and had his best years ahead of him.

But there were two problems.

The first - and most prominent - was Borini’s wage demands after Liverpool accepted Sunderland’s offer. It’s what prevented him joining QPR yesterday.

And the second was whether Borini was willing to leave Anfield.

After the departure of Luis Suarez, Borini sensed he had a future on Merseyside and Liverpool did little to dissuade him of that notion, despite accepting Sunderland’s offer.

It hasn’t been until the last fortnight when it has dawned on Borini where his place lies in Brendan Rodgers’ plans.

The capture of Mario Balotelli, coupled with Borini’s omission from the Liverpool squad for the first three Premier League outings, proved to be the Eureka moments.

Now Borini finds himself in a no-man’s land.

But setting Borini aside, the disgruntled complaints as the window came to a close generally fell into the following categories yesterday:

Where did the £14m for Borini suddenly go when Poyet wanted to sign both him and Rodwell?

Why have Sunderland only spent £14m when they’re awash with £60m-plus of television money?

How come Sunderland are so concerned with Financial Fair Play when lots of other Premier League clubs don’t seem to give it a second’s thought?

It’s no surprise fans don’t understands FFP. Most managers don’t either.

But, regardless of what everyone else is doing, Sunderland are firm advocates of FFP. It’s not a question of not being able to compete with the likes of QPR.

The club’s hierarchy want to get the balance sheet back onto an even keel where the outgoings don’t grossly exceed income.

When every supporter puts aside their insatiable thirst for new signings, it’s the prudent course of action. No one wants to be in the position of a Leeds or Portsmouth.

The club’s hierarchy want to get the balance sheet back onto an even keel where the outgoings don’t grossly exceed income.

When every supporter puts aside their insatiable thirst for new signings, it’s the prudent course of action. No one wants to be in the position of a Leeds or Portsmouth.

Much of the windfall from the new TV deal has gone towards paying the club’s hefty debts, while there are limits - proposed by Ellis Short to the rest of the Premier League - over how much of that money can be used on wages.

By the end of this window, Sunderland will still have splashed out well in excess of £20m on new players too.

It’s not just transfer fees which come into the equation. Multi-million pound signing-on fees and loan fees are the perennially-overlooked add-ons.

With that limited budget, to land nine players, six of which - Rodwell, Santiago Vergini, Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon, Jordi Gomez and Will Buckley - were on Poyet’s first-choice list has been smart business from Sunderland.

Poyet was looking for specific players for specific positions this summer. There was none of the supermarket sweep from previous reigns.

It’s why so many transfer stories have been along the lines of “Sunderland are STILL pursuing x,y and z”.

In general, Sunderland have been successful in pursuing those targets at the top of the hit-list formed last May.

They’ve missed out on a few - Borini, Marcos Alonso and Ashley Williams - but Poyet and Lee Congerton have mainly hoovered up those they wanted, and not had to look too far for suitable alternatives.

However, there are still gaps in this squad.

Coates is undoubtedly an upgrade on the departed Valentin Roberge and Poyet knows all about the capabilities of his fellow Uruguayan.

But there are only six, rather than the seven first-team defenders that Poyet wanted in his final squad.

And while Argentine international Ricky Alvarez may ultimately prove to be a transfer coup from Sunderland, the on-loan Inter Milan’s goal record in Serie A doesn’t indicate that he will be a regular scorer - albeit Borini only netted seven times in the Premier League.

That’s why Poyet would ideally liked to have landed Borini - or an alternative forward - as well as Alvarez. The ruthlessness of the front players will make all the difference in the battle between the Premier League’s bottom 13 this season.

But there were bound to still be areas which were left unaddressed this window, due to Sunderland’s previous in the transfer market.

The departures of Roberge and Diakite yesterday removed more of the dead-wood from Roberto De Fanti’s spending spree from last summer - a crucial part of Congerton’s remit.

Only six of the 14 players brought to the club 12 months ago now remain; just three of which were in the first-team squad last Saturday.

Duncan Watmore and Charis Mavrias are both on the fringes, while Cabral remains at the club, not for the want of trying.

It will take Sunderland a couple of windows for the club to fully recover from a recruitment drive which has had such paltry long-term benefits.

Ultimately that’s to blame if Sunderland are left short between now and January. It’s not a lack of ambition, a lack of money or even their lengthy pursuit of Borini.

One bad window has lasting repercussions. This one will not fall into that category.