FABIO BORINI was the pick of the bunch for Sunderland this season, believes coach Charlie Oatway.
Forward Borini has returned to parent club Liverpool after finishing joint top of Sunderland’s scoring charts alongside Adam Johnson with 10 goals, following his season on loan at the Stadium of Light.
The 23-year-old was pipped to the Sunderland Supporter Association’s Player of the Year prize by fellow Italian Vito Mannone, albeit he was crowned the Young Player of the Season.
But Borini became a firm favourite both on the terraces and with first-team coach Oatway, who was impressed by the frontman’s character both on and off the field.
When asked who his player of the season was, Oatway said: “For me, Borini.
“I love the kid. He’s a pleasure to work with.
“He’s such a humble guy. For instance, he was driving home after the West Brom game and he saw three Italians who he’d met earlier because they wanted his autograph.
“He saw they were walking to Newcastle, so he picked them up and drove them there.
“That’s the type of guy he is.
“If he doesn’t stay with us, I hope he really succeeds in his career because he deserves it.
“He’s very professional on a daily basis.
“He goes out on the training field at virtually the same time as the coaching staff, about 15 minutes before the rest of them.
“He’s out there starting to stretch and preparing for what’s coming. He’s one to watch.”
The question mark over Borini now is whether he will return to the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland have made no secret of their desire to re-sign the Italian international, either permanently or on another season-long loan.
But the Black Cats will be forced to play a waiting game this summer to see whether Liverpool make him available after shelling out £11million for his services two years ago.
“It’s totally in Liverpool’s hands,” said Oatway. “We’ll just have to wait. But I’m sure if he is available, he’d like to come back and play with us.”
Borini has been left out of the Italy squad for the summer’s World Cup.
Boss Cesare Prandelli has named an initial 30-man squad for next summer’s tournament and there was no place for Borini or winger Emanuele Giaccherini.