Sunderland boss Poyet: Champions League turned Liverpool striker Borini’s head

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini
Liverpool striker Fabio Borini
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CHAMPIONS League football was a key factor in swaying ex-Sunderland loanee Fabio Borini to remain at Liverpool, believes Gus Poyet.

Borini wasn’t even on the bench for Sunderland’s goalless draw at Anfield on Saturday, despite the Liverpool frontman being fit to play against his former club.

Since rejecting moves to Sunderland and QPR during the summer – after both agreed fees with Liverpool – Borini has been limited to just three starts for Brendan Rodgers’ side.

As the Echo reported last week, Sunderland are understood to have ruled out reviving their interest in Borini in the January transfer window, albeit Poyet understandably remains an admirer of the Italian.

But when asked about Borini – who has been left out of Liverpool’s matchday 18 for the last three games – Poyet believes playing in Europe was more important for the 23-year-old than regular first-team football.

“I know Fabio very well,” said Poyet.

“There are things I know and Fabio knows that are between us.

“QPR came into it at the last minute, but then he stayed at Liverpool and I saw him playing in the Champions League.

“So, in terms of minutes, he’s getting less than last year.

“But in terms of quality of football, it depends what you like because playing in the Champions League is unique.

“I’m really looking forward to see if he plays tomorrow (Liverpool’s crunch Champions League qualifier against Basel)

“When you have a player like Fabio playing for an English team, you want Liverpool to win and him to score. That’s natural.

“We’ll see if he plays.”

Borini commented in the Liverpool programme on Saturday that he understood why Sunderland fans were disenchanted with him after pricing himself out of a return to Wearside with his wage demands.

But he stressed how he retains his fondness for the Black Cats after finishing as the club’s joint top scorer last season.

“I realise what happened in the summer probably frustrated a few people when I didn’t move to Sunderland permanently,” said Borini.

“But my time there put a good stone in the ground in terms of the Premier League for me and I will always remember Sunderland.

“I said in an interview I did towards the end of last season that Sunderland took a piece of my heart and I will always have a lot of time for the club and the supporters.

“Since I returned to Liverpool, I have played Champions League football.

“I want to start every game because that’s what a player with ambition like me wants me to do.”

Connor Wickham has predominantly filled in the left-hand forward role vacated by Borini this season and there were reports yesterday that the England Under-21 international is on the verge of agreeing a new four-year deal at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland are keeping tight-lipped on the speculation, which appear to have emanated from the Wickham camp.

But the Black Cats are highly unlikely to be splashing out wages around the £60,000 a week mark, which were mentioned in the reports.

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