It would be a cold-hearted individual who would begrudge Fabio Borini his moment of joyous abandon last night, as his beautifully taken goal after seventy eight minutes of the U21 European Championships semi final was enough to squeeze Italy past Holland and into the final, where they will face reigning champions Spain.
Ecstatically revelling in his trademark celebration, Borini looked every inch the returning hero. His relief at being the scorer and a match-winner was clearly immense, following a car-crash of a debut season at Liverpool, and one could only feel a fuzzy glow of shared satisfaction as he adroitly despatched his chance and decided a very tight match.
Last summer's ten and a half million pounds capture from Roma arrived at Liverpool with a buzz of expectation but he could hardly have imagined he would be so central in his early games as Brendan Rodgers had little choice but to pitch the young Italian into the team; the club having made an almighty shambles of the transfer window. The result was that Borini was played in virtually every position across the front-line as Liverpool spluttered slowly through a dreadful start to the campaign.
Sadly, the striker would make only twenty appearances, many of those as substitute, over the course of an injury ravaged campaign and managed a paltry two goals from his time on the pitch. Those two strikes bookended a difficult campaign for Borini. In a previous article I looked at how he had to cope with his umpteenth new environment, a different style, a mutating role and a pair of serious injuries.
Those with jerky knees, however, were quick to disparage the young man as a waste of transfer resources, and whilst that seems a little predictably hysterical, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't amongst those concerned that Borini was lining up as the natural heir to a previous Fabio's Man of Glass title.
His goal at Newcastle towards the season's end proved two things that many of us had been insisting upon -- the kid can finish and his movement is very intelligent. Playing in front of a comparatively guile-free Liverpool midfield in his early games, Borini was clearly making clever runs over the course of a match, without often being found. One cannot fail to be excited at the thoughts of such incisive running combined with the inventive passing of Phillipe Coutinho.
As last night's stalemate moved into it's final stage, Borini showed that same intelligence and an admirable sang froid. When the ball was played into the box, the young striker ghosted past his marker to receive it, took a couple of deft touches on his right foot to work himself into space and then finished with splendid aplomb. It was a real striker's goal and, more importantly, it was a winner. Speaking afterwards, the Italian was a mixture of relief, ecstasy and gratitude.
"I dedicate this goal to all of my team-mates, to the staff, to my family, my friends, to all the Italians that have followed us, because it was a difficult year for me," said Borini. "My agent and my psychologist have also stayed close to me. That is why I was so elated -- I had so many people to thank."
I won't have been the only one to notice the mention of a psychologist in his credits list, and frankly, this pleases me almost as much as his goal. It is heartening to think that football and footballers are finally moving on a little from the head-in-the-sand machismo that has traditionally prevented young men from addressing the mental side of their health and preparation.
Let us hope that Fabio Borini can put this excellent attitude to work, in combination with his undoubted ability, and claim a regular berth in a successful Liverpool attack as a new season begins. Should he manage to do so the future looks very promising indeed, with or without a certain Luis Suarez.
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