As Fowler celebrates Anelka admits missing Anfield

Robbie Fowler’s return to Anfield has brought him joy that he’s rarely experienced in the years since his departure from the club under a cloud when David O’Leary signed him for Leeds. After he signed his new contract at Anfield yesterday he went outside and cried. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Fowler said: “After I signed I sat in my car outside Anfield and was incredibly emotional. It is unbelievable, a dream come true for me. I can hardly believe that I am back.”

Fowler again emphasised how much worse his departure from the club had been made by the former manager Gerard Houllier: “One of my biggest regrets in football was my final game at Liverpool when I was taken off at half-time against Sunderland. I never got the chance to say goodbye to the fans. Now I am getting the chance to do things properly with the fans and it is just such a great feeling. I am here and I am committed to a future at Liverpool.”

That future includes a need to show Rafa Benítez just how good he really can be. The 30-year-old hopes to see his fitness improve under the current fitness techniques employed at Melwood, and wants to ensure that his return is not going to sour the memories of the supporters for the local lad. He’s here until the summer, after that there’s an option for another year, which is reliant on him proving that fitness and form won’t be an issue: “I know the odds, I have come back on a short-term deal and after that it’s up to me. I have come back to Liverpool because the club and the fans have always been in my heart, and I just hope I can give something back to the fans for the incredible support they have always shown to me, even when I was playing for another club.”

There’s no doubting that Fowler’s return will see the Anfield volume
levels turned up a couple of notches, Liverpool will probably earn the
biggest part of his wages in new shirt sales as the former number 9
moves to number 11. The Mirror claim Fowler’s second stint at Liverpool
sees him earning a weekly wage of £25,000, which works out at a pay cut
of £10,000 per week. What isn’t clear is whether or not this includes
the £10,000 per week that Leeds still have to pay Fowler until the

The Yorkshire Post reported today that Leeds are still paying Fowler
£10,000 per week as part of the deal that saw him move to Manchester
City. Fowler joined Leeds with a figure quoted officially of £11
million going to Anfield and a lucrative contract awarded to Fowler.
When Leeds famously failed to qualify for the Champions League they hit
serious problems and needed to sell Fowler. The transfer fee agreed
with Manchester City was £6 million, but Fowler’s personal terms were
just a little too high for City’s liking. In the end Leeds agreed to
subsidise the move, and since that day have continued to pay him that
£10,000 per week. Leeds’ chief operating officer Shaun Harvey told the
Leeds newspaper that the deal is between Leeds and Fowler, and doesn’t
include any rule that lets Leeds off the hook should Fowler change
club: “Our agreement is with Robbie Fowler and as such there will be no
change. Leeds are not going to be relieved of any financial burden, the
deal was agreed that Leeds would continue to pay Robbie Fowler until
the middle of 2006 and that deal stands no matter where he plays.”

Fowler was replaced temporarily at Anfield by former Arsenal star
Nicolas Anelka. Anelka arrived on loan for the second half of the
season, was given Fowler’s former number 9 shirt, and quickly built up
a rapport with the fans and his team mates. An agreement had been
reached with his club at the time – Paris St Germain – that he’d be
signed by Liverpool in the summer. For reasons still never explained,
Gerard Houllier decided to go back on the deal. Houllier signed El
Hadji-Diouf instead, a player who was frankly a disgrace to the Red
shirt, particularly the number nine shirt, and in doing so paved the
way for his own departure. Diouf was the worst signing of many
questionable efforts by Houllier, made all the worse by the fact that
Anelka had been let go in his place. Now playing for Fenerbache, the
26-year-old told So Foot magazine that he really thought he had found
his ideal club in Liverpool, a club where he could settle. He said: “I
need stability – I thought I had found it at Liverpool. I loved
everything at the club, from the team-mates to the chairman, from the
town to the supporters.”

Anelka is back in the French squad now, but is no doubt looking on
enviously at Fowler, a player he combined with at Manchester City. He
says what he got at Anfield is what he craves now: “Today, that’s the
sort of challenge I am looking for.”

He still doesn’t know himself why Houllier did what he did: “Gerard
Houllier allowed me to believe that I deserved my place in that team
100 times. At the last moment – and I don’t know why – he decided not
to keep me. He did not keep his word which is typical of him.” How
different things may have been for Houllier if he hadn’t changed his
mind over Anelka.

Rafael Benítez may be bringing another experienced player to the club
if the latest reports from Spain are to be believed. There’s no secret
that the Reds need to strengthen that right side of midfield, Rafa has
been telling us this since Steven Gerrard signed his new contract.
Gerrard has filled in admirably in that role, but Rafa wants to bring a
specialist winger in. He mentioned a possibility of bringing in a
right-winger as part of a temporary swap deal involving Mark González,
but the name linked this weekend would be a permanent move and would
not involve González. Deportivo la Coruna’s Sanchez del Amo Victor has
been withdrawn for the club’s match tomorrow with Atletico Madrid, and
is said to be arriving in the country tomorrow for a medical and to
discuss personal terms.

Victor is 30 next month and we believe his contract is due to expire at
the end of this season. A former Real Madrid player he has played at
Anfield before – he was booked as Deportivo held the Reds to a goalless
Champions League draw last season. The reports claim a three-and-half
year deal will be agreed, although this does seem to be a little
excessive for a player of that age, a two and a half year deal may be
more likely. It’s felt that Liverpool will still be making a move for a
right-winger during the summer, when targets like Atletico Madrid’s
Luciano Galletti and Benfica’s Simao Sabrosa are more likely to be
considered for sale by their clubs.