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A deeper look at the Fabio Borini situation

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - MARCH 24:  Fabio Borini of Italy U21 in action during the international friendly match between Italy U21 and Sweden U21 at Stadio Giglio on March 24, 2011 in Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - MARCH 24: Fabio Borini of Italy U21 in action during the international friendly match between Italy U21 and Sweden U21 at Stadio Giglio on March 24, 2011 in Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy. (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
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Fabio Borini has made some headlines this year both for his expiring contract and his recent run of excellent goal scoring displays.  The club reached a agreement with Borini in 2007 while he was a member of the Bologna academy yet not signed as a professional.  This was somewhat controversial at the time, as English clubs were beginning to exploit the fact that Italian clubs were prohibited by law from offering players professional deals before the age of 18, where English clubs could begin to pay the player earlier (Federico Macheda of Manchester United was another example).  Borini immediately joined Jeffrey Bruma and Gael Kakuta as top prospects in the academy as Chelsea seemed to begin it's push to become more self sufficient.  

Borini's contract is set to expire on June 30 of this year.  Because of that, Borini is now free to negotiate with any team he wants to for a summer move.  He's been strongly linked to a move to Parma, but his agent has hinted that the team and player were not able to come to any arrangement in January due to salary demands.  The player appears to want to remain at Chelsea if the opportunity to play is going to be there, but as a center forward/striker the depth chart is pretty crowded ahead of him.  Still, it does appear that the club would like to see Borini remain if a contract can be worked out.  We've recently given him a loan opportunity (like Sturridge), which might be something Borini was insisting on if he wasn't going to make the first team regularly.  We'll take a little deeper look at both the player and situation after the jump.

If he does leave, the club would still be entitled to a fee despite the player being out of contract because he is under the age of 24 (Fifa rules don't allow "free" transfers for U24's).  The fee would likely not be excessively large however, as it will be set by a panel assuming we don't reach an agreement with the signing club.  Daniel Sturridge had a very similar resume when he transfered under the same circumstances from Manchester City, and Fifa ruled that we owed City 3.5 million pounds.  That fee could escalate to as much as 6.5 million (and likely will) depending on his appearances for club and country, and City is entitled to 15% any future sale of Sturridge by Chelsea.  Borini would likely net a very similar fee.

Looking positionally at Borini, he doesn't appear to be as versatile as many of our other forwards.  He's only played as either a center forward or a striker since joining the club, so it's unclear if he would be a fit on a wing.  My gut feeling says he would not, as Borini's best attribute is his ability to find space in the box and finish when given an opportunity.  He's strong enough, but at only 5'11" he's not the build of your prototypical hold up center forward.  He's not slow, but his pace isn't anything special either.  His runs are far more based on his vision of the pitch than his quickness, but he reads the field well enough to get in dangerous spots.  He's acceptable as a passer, but not so solid that I can picture him firing repeated crosses into the box.  He's also not the fantastic footwork type who would likely be able to make marauding runs in from the wings.  

None of that should lead you to believe that Borini isn't a very solid player, though, because he certainly is.  Center Forwards primarily need to score goals, and Borini does just that.  While he doesn't have any attributes that you'd look at and say "wow" about, when the ball finds his head or feet in the box he generally puts a shot on target even when he doesn't find the net.  If you don't think that's important, just think back to all the times Saloman Kalou has driven you crazy by doing everything right and then firing the ball out of the stadium.  Just as an example, here's Borini's two goals over the weekend:

As you can see, neither were bits of individual brilliance.  Both were solid finishes though, and his ability to get to the correct spot needs to be noted.  He was also very patient on that first one, waiting until the ball was in a good position to hit so he didn't waste a great opportunity.  How many times this season have we seen players waste opportunities by simply not displaying any patience?  Here's a much longer compilation of Borini goals to get a look at him:

All of these are at the youth and reserve level so the defenders don't have the marking skills found at the Premier League level, but he's once again showing a knack for finding pockets of space.  He also again shows a calm demeanor when he's striking home, something that Center Forwards just need if they are going to score many goals.

Borini for me is a very interesting prospect.  He's different than many of our other young attacking options, as most of them are either exceptionally fast or fantastic with the ball at their feet.  Borini is really the only out and out target man in the U21 ranks, and it's always nice to have one of those around.  He's never been one that I've been particularly excited about due to his height, but he still always seems to find the back of the net at every level he plays.  He's also going to qualify as homegrown when he reaches 21, so his value to the club should increase exponentially because of that.  Borini on the bench would provide us an excellent substitution option from Kalou, and that would certainly be useful when we just aren't getting shots on target.

I worry that he just doesn't have the size for his particular skillset to translate at the next level.  The marking should be better there, and the centerbacks are generally bigger and faster as well.  I can look at Daniel Sturridge and picture his pace creating openings on runs, I look at Borini and see his best chance to excel as finding rebounds and deflected balls.  I see the two he poached this weekend as exactly what he'd do best against better competition.  I just don't see him as being a guy who can create an opportunity for himself, although depending on the system we run that might not be overly necessary.

I also generally prefer to have players that aren't of Italian or Spanish backgrounds.  Already with Borini we see rumors abounding that he'd return to Italy.  When we sign a young Brazilian or Nigerian we're never likely to see rumors of them returning home just due to the fact that they can't make enough money there.  Italian and Spanish players don't face that issue, so guys like Cesc Fabregas and Mario Balotelli will always likely command larger salaries because of that.  

When all is said and done, I wouldn't be crushed if he decided to leave.  Like I mentioned earlier, we'll be entitled to a fee if he does go so we're not losing him for nothing (it may be 6 months or so before we settle on a fee though).   I also look at his Italian background and just worry that we're simply preparing him to move back to Italy for the prime years of his career.  I'd prefer to hear, however, that we've managed to reach an extension with Fabio Borini for another couple of years.  I'd love to see him get a loan spell in the Premier League just to see if he can find the type of space he's found at the lower levels, because if he can he'll be an extremely valuable asset.  Resigning him would also not cost us a transfer fee (where replacing him would), and it would be nice to start seeing some returns from our investments in the youth system.  If his wage demands are excessive though, I'd rather just allow him to go on his way.  I'd love to hear how everyone else here rates Borini, as his situation could be one of the more interesting story lines that flies under the radar all summer long.  

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