Friday, October 23, 2009

Hansen: I Have A Feeling That With The Anfield Crowd's Backing We Could Be In For An Upset

Alan Hansen believes Liverpool will surprise the rest of the Premier League by beating Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

The former Anfield stalwart concedes his old club have been in terrible form but suggests it is almost unthinkable Rafa Benitez’s side will lose their fifth straight game.

Hansen told “Rafa Benitez enters his 200th Premier League match in charge of Liverpool facing a mini-crisis after four successive defeats in all competitions for the first time in 22 years.”

“Next up is a visit from the champions Manchester United with a possible ten-point gap looming between the teams if Sir Alex Ferguson’s side win.”

“Despite a lack of confidence and injury doubts to key players, I think Liverpool may well shock the rest of the Premier League with a performance few would expect.”

“The Reds have not become a bad side overnight although it’s fair to stay the team is not playing well.”

“Key members of the side have not performing to the high levels expected of them but it’s unthinkable to anyone at Anfield that the team will suffer a 5th consecutive defeat.”

“In fact, if Liverpool were to lose then this would be the first time under Rafa that the Reds had lost three league games on the bounce.”

“My old club have also failed to score in their last two league matches, if they were to do so again, it would be for the first time since March 2005.”

“It all makes miserable reading for anyone associated with the club.”

“There are serious injury doubts over key players in both camps with Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher all struggling.”

“However, with so much riding on this match even this early in the season, I expect to see most of them on the pitch.”

“I do feel Liverpool have relied too heavily on both Gerrard and Torres in recent seasons but with a lack of depth in the Reds squad, there has been little choice.”

“If both are available then Liverpool will be a totally different proposition for United but before writing off the Reds chances without them, it’s worth remembering that neither started last season’s 2-1 home league win.”

“That remains United’s only defeat in their last seven trips to Anfield (five wins) but after being beaten home and away by Liverpool last season, Sir Alex will be more than aware his side are in for a tough game whether the home side has been in form or not.”

“Manchester United may be top but they are not firing on all cylinders themselves having struggled to pick up a win and a draw at home to Bolton and Sunderland respectively.”

“Sir Alex’s team may have been picking up the points but they have been far from convincing in terms of the performances we have come to expect from them over the years. However, they remain unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions (ten wins) so won’t be short on confidence.”

“The pressure is on Liverpool and in particular Rafa Benitez but I have a feeling that with the Anfield crowd’s backing we could be in for an upset.”

“I don’t expect my old club to lose.”

Liverpool Can Recover Strongly - Andrea Dossena

Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena believes that his side can bounce back from their recent poor run when they welcome Manchester United to Anfield on Sunday.

The Reds have lost four consecutive games in all competitions and manager Rafa Benitez's position has come under scrutiny after the Champions League defeat to Lyon on Tuesday night.

Dossena though is optimistic that the players can turn things round.

"I believe we can play catch-up," Dossena told

"We have not won in the last four games and we face difficult games against Manchester United and at Lyon. But we hope to recover [injured players] Fernando Torres, Albert Riera and Steven Gerrard, key players in this team."

Dossena takes a similarly sanguine view of the groin injury he sustained in last month's League Cup tie with Leeds United.

He added: "Initially I was supposed to be out of action for a week. But then the injury reappeared.

"I have now been sidelined for a month and the recovery is going well. I expect to be available in the coming weeks."

Dossena also reiterated that he is happy at Anfield, despite the rumours that continue to link him with a return to Italian football with Napoli.

"I am happy to be a Liverpool player. I have a lot of will to prove that I can have a say in England. I accept that there is a lot of competition in my role and I will wait for my turn to play," he explained.

"I have the advantage of playing in an important club that has several players available for each role. Benítez appreciates my professionalism and knows my potential and I respect his decisions. If in the future I do not enter in the plans of the coach, only then would I evaluate other destinations, including that of Napoli."

Liverpool Supporters Union Label 'Liars' Hicks & Gillett As Sole Culprits For Reds' Rut

It happens quite a lot nowadays in Liverpool. A man (or woman) walks into a room, bearing a small pin-badge on their clothing, and instantly gets the thumbs-up. The badge may be understated, but its emblem, and what it stands for, is most definitely not.

Arms outstretched, with a red scarf around his neck, Bill Shankly is captured forever in his most famous pose. It could not be a more apt symbol for the supporters' union which is keeping his name alive at Liverpool Football Club.

The Spirit of Shankly was formed in January 2008 in the Sandon pub, a stone's throw away from Anfield. Over 350 supporters crammed into the venue - the birthplace of Liverpool FC - that night, disillusioned at the direction in which their beloved club was heading. The UK had its first football supporters union.

Today, the Spirit of Shankly boasts 3,500 paid members, a figure that is increasing by the week. The group holds quarterly meetings to update members of progress and is coordinating numerous campaigns aimed at ousting the club's controversial co-owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

Paul Gardner, the group's Community Liaison and Regeneration Officer, is one voice that aims to be heard in this current mini-crisis at Anfield, which came to a head with a fourth consecutive loss at home to Lyon. Not only did this throw Champions League qualification up in the air, but it also gave Rafa's current crop the unenviable distinction of having equalled a 22-and-a-half-year-old losing streak.

Speaking exclusively to UK, Gardner is in no doubt of who is to blame for the current plight at Anfield.

"There are two culprits - Gillett and Hicks," he says. "They are the ones who put us into £245 million worth of debt, promised us a stadium which has not been built, took money out of the club to pay for their own expenses, and lied to us constantly."

Gardner and his group plan a demonstration march to Anfield from the supporters' club this Sunday, ahead of the Reds' mammoth encounter with Manchester United. It is a fixture that Hicks is scheduled to attend, and Gardner expects the demonstration to attract significant support from the Liverpool fans.

"We are asking fans to email Gillett and Hicks," he explains, "to let them know how we feel and how we went them out of the club. There will be a march from the supporters club (on Breck Road) at 12 noon ahead of the Manchester United game on Sunday.

"We are calling all Liverpool fans - whether you have a ticket or not - to come down and support us. This is another chance to make our voices heard and help put more pressure on the owners to sell up."

The Spirit of Shankly is eager to stress, however, that their efforts to rid the club of its American co-owners is not simply down to a personal distaste for the duo. They have the club's wider interests at heart, and Gardner speaks of much longer-term aims for Liverpool.

"The club's identity, community links and fan interaction is what Liverpool is all about," he says. "Without those, we are just another club. We are special and unique for those reasons, and all we want is suitable owners who will not load our club with debt, or treat us as a plaything with a business model which is unsustainable.

"Obviously, the ultimate aim of the Spirit of Shankly is a fan-ownership situation. This is something that we, and the people at ShareLiverpool (a scheme which encourages Liverpool fans to pledge £500 in a bid to buy the club as part of a fan's trust) are striving for."

Some may have derided the efforts of groups such as Spirit of Shankly or indeed ShareLiverpool as pie-in-the-sky, but there is a steely determination about the way in which Gardner and his team are going about their business, and they hope for a breakthrough sooner rather than later.

"We want the owners out now," says Gardner, "We cannot afford to just sit back and wait until they get bored, or into too much trouble. That is why we are arranging our banners and our marches and all the other things. If we sit back and wait, we could be another Leeds or Newcastle, in administration and falling down the leagues. That is not an option we even wish to think about."

The Manchester United fixture on Sunday already feels like the most important in Rafa Benitez's five years on Merseyside. For the Spirit of Shankly group, and their American nemesis, it is just the latest round in an ongoing battle, one which the supporters' union expects to win.

Christian Purslow: No Better Club To Support Than Liverpool

As I sit and wait my turn to speak to the man appointed to replace Rick Parry at Anfield, two fellow journalists look at each other and say: “He’s good, he’s bloody good,” before looking at me with crumpled smiles insinuating I’d have a job on my hands getting Liverpool's managing director to say something dramatic.

I, however, was looking at the situation pragmatically.

When I eventually get round to speaking to him, Christian Purslow maintains he is in the job because of his business credentials. He is, after all, the man who founded the successful Mid Ocean Partners group, an international private equity firm.

The Harvard Business School graduate insists he is determined to drive the club he has supported since boyhood into a new era of success despite the off-field problems.

“I’m enjoying my work immensely,” Purslow tells UK.

“I am incredibly proud and honoured to be the custodian of the football club that my grandparents and my dad and I have been fans of. My children are also Liverpool fans.”

It comes as no surprise when Purslow suggests Rafael Benitez’s side must improve on the pitch in order to sustain the club’s global appeal, with particular emphasis on the Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

He says: “I’d like to think I’ve got the credentials to move the club forward. The stronger we are off the park the more resources we can invest in the success of the club on the pitch. The two are completely interlinked and success on the pitch is absolutely vital.

“What I found when I started work here was a tremendous team of people in terms of the business side of Liverpool Football Club, and Ian Ayre’s excellent commercial team will continue to work hard and attract the right partners to move the club forward.”
Purslow explains how everyone associated with the club was astonished with the loyalty displayed by overseas fans during Liverpool’s recent tour of Asia.

The Londoner was particularly impressed with the manner in which the players were received by supporters during official club events and at packed stadiums.

“We are very well represented in Asia, more so than any other club. Our fans in Asia showed they are a fantastic group of people, incredibly positive, incredibly motivated with a sense of purpose, and most of all a sense of pride," he says.

When asked if Liverpool have more Asian fans than the likes of Manchester United, who have also aggressively targeted the Asian market over the years, Purslow retorts: “What better club is there in the world to support than Liverpool Football Club?

“Fans throughout the world have been supporting us for many years. Our history and tradition speaks for itself. Our fans make Anfield a very special place week in, week out, and that is part of the reason why we have so many Asian visitors every year.”

Purslow cites Liverpool’s recent four-year sponsorship deal with Standard Charter Bank as a significant milestone in the club’s history. However, he expects a number of lucrative deals to be signed off in the future.

“Defying conventional wisdom about where the economy is generally, we have one of the most successful shirt sponsorship deals done anywhere in the world," he continues.

"Standard Chartered has a great history, a really good fit culturally and they are a fantastically well run company. They have done very well during well the financial crisis. We feel nothing other than a sense of pride.

“Rest assured my commercial team will continue to work hard and grind out results. Liverpool Football Club is a fantastic club with great tradition and history. I can assure the fans we are all working very hard.”

Looking back at the journalists who were sat in front of me saying “He’s good, he’s bloody good,” I’m inclined to agree.

Alberto Aquilani Desperate To Make Liverpool Debut Following First Reserves Outing

Alberto Aquilani is itching to make his first-team debut after making his Liverpool bow for the reserves.

The £20million summer signing came on for the final 15 minutes of the second string's 2-0 win over Sunderland at Tranmere's Prenton Park last night and was delighted to pull on finally a Liverpool shirt.

Aquilani has been out since last season with an ankle injury and is targeting his first appearance for Rafa Benitez's senior side.

"It was a good day for me because I have not played for six or seven months," said the Italian international.

"I have to do more good work with the medical staff. I'm happy with 15 minutes and it's important for my confidence.

"I can't wait to make my debut for the first team now.

"Like every other player, I want to be playing, but the important thing for me now is to keep improving my fitness."

Rafa - Aquilani Needs Time

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has urged Reds fans to give fit-again Alberto Aquilani time to adapt to English football.

Aquilani, who joined the Reds in the summer from Roma, made his first appearance in a Liverpool shirt on Wednesday night for the reserves as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery.

Pressure is on Aquilani's shoulders to help fill the void in Liverpool's side left by Xabi Alonso's departure to Real Madrid.

But Benitez has called on the club's followers to be patient with the Italian as he tries to find his feet after a long spell out of action

"Alberto is intelligent, he likes football and he has been watching our games," said Benitez.

"He can see the pace is different here and the physical approach.

"There is a difference between what you see and how you play but when he gets out and feels the atmosphere here, it will be something special for him.

"When will he play? It depends on how he is physically.

"He has got very good levels of stamina but now he has to improve his sharpness. To get match fitness he needs to play games and what we have to do is analyse carefully which game is the best and how long he will play for.

"Always with a new player we talk about the problems they have settling down because the Premier League is very quick and it is more physical.

"So for a new player who has been injured, like Alberto, it will be even more difficult. It is a question of keeping him training and when he is fit, we have to support him.

"We will have to choose the right moments to put him on the pitch. But he is learning all the time and we are looking forward to playing him."

Red For Danger: Liverpool Empire Could Be One Defeat From Crumbling

Four consecutive losses have left Liverpool seemingly at the risk of implosion. After defeat by Lyons in the Champions League on Tuesday, their next opponents are Manchester United and Rafael Benítez’s side will take to the pitch at Anfield on Sunday in the knowledge that another loss would all but end their Barclays Premier League title hopes with seven months of the campaign remaining.

Despite having signed a new five-year contract seven months ago, he is not immune from dismissal, but could the club afford to sack him even if they wished to? A salary in the region of £4 million a season would entitle him to a payoff of about £18 million.

However, Liverpool’s annual profits are being swallowed up by interest payments on the £250 million debt built up by Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., the co-owners, and the club could not afford to make the four signings their manager sought in the summer, so it is questionable if they would have the means to remove him.

Equally, one of the main reasons that Benítez was awarded such a long-term deal was the owners’ desire to present a picture of stability to potential investors. Sacking him now would not only expose that charade, it would also present Hicks and Gillett with the problem of finding a new manager.

Benítez, though, needs results — and he needs them badly. In recent weeks it has appeared as if the numerous internal battles have taken their toll. Real Madrid are often touted as the most likely providers of an exit strategy for the Spaniard, but should Liverpool’s form continue to decline, then their manager’s stock would suffer commensurately.

Team spirit has been lacking since pre-season. It is almost as if the established stars recognised that the squad was not equipped to challenge for the biggest prizes and that their belief in the Benítez project has diminished.

Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Javier Mascherano are top-class performers, but none has been at his best. All, apart from Mascherano, appear committed to the club, but their patience would surely be tested if Liverpool fell out of the title race with so much of the season to be played.

Torres, Gerrard and Mascherano have next year’s World Cup finals in the back of their minds and the concern for Benítez would be how to get the best out of his big names without the motivation of a title challenge or a good run in the Champions League.

The biggest worry, though, would be how the owners would respond to the doomsday scenario of failure to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Lose on Sunday and the gap between Liverpool and the top five could increase to five points. If Liverpool were to fall out of the “big four” picture altogether, then Hicks and Gillett could feasibly make up for the loss of prize money by using player sales to finance their debt repayments. The most saleable assets would be those the club could least afford to lose.

The booing that greeted Benítez’s decision to replace Yossi Benayoun with Andriy Voronin on Tuesday may not have been new to Anfield regulars, but the ferocity of their disapproval was. This was the moment when frustration about Liverpool’s inability to arrest their decline bubbled over, although a little more than half an hour earlier Benítez’s name had been sung by the Kop after his team took the lead through Benayoun.

The fans stood shoulder to shoulder with Benítez when his job was under threat two years ago. They even marched to the stadium in protest at plans by Hicks and Gillett to replace him with Jürgen Klinsmann. There are few clubs where the relationship between manager and supporters is as strong as at Anfield, a legacy of the legendary Bill Shankly’s incredible bond with the Anfield crowd. Benítez will know, however, that even such powerful devotion is conditional and a failure to get results will inevitably lead to even his most committed fans questioning his ability to win the league title they crave.

A defeat by United would further damage his lustre in the eyes of those who have backed him so resolutely. However, it should also be noted that the more political supporters lay the blame for the problems on the pitch at the owners’ door rather than Benítez’s.

The situation at Liverpool has become so desperate in recent weeks that there are some fans who have argued that they might be able to stomach defeat on Sunday if it pushed the owners they revile closer to the exit.

Hicks and Gillett are expected to attend the match and are likely to be in for a rough ride as disenchantment with their regime reaches new heights. A march in protest against the Americans has been organised and the Spirit of Shankly supporters’ union are hopeful that thousands of people will join their campaign.

The owners have refused to budge despite their lack of popularity and the overwhelming feeling is that they will quit Anfield willingly only if an investor makes it financially worthwhile. Both are involved in an as yet unsuccessful search for investment, with the Middle East the centre of their attentions.

Their problem is that potential investors would argue that Liverpool’s value will be reduced should the club fail to make it through to the lucrative stages of this season’s Champions League and increasingly likely failure to qualify for next season’s competition.

How they would react to another damaging defeat is open to question, given the public support that Gillett offered to Benítez this week and the backing that has been afforded to the manager by Hicks in the past.

Should they see his presence at the helm as being potentially damaging to their chances of securing investment, or a total sale of the club, they could begin to see Benítez as expendable.

Liverpool Need Takeover To Compete With Rivals

Keith Harris is regarded as the No.1 mover and shaker on football club takeovers, coming close last year to pulling off a Middle East deal to buy Liverpool, so there can be few greater authorities on the current crisis gripping Anfield.

The boss of high flying City firm Seymour Pierce spoke to ESPN Soccernet about the situation gripping the giant Premier League club on the eve of their critical clash with Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

Investment bank Seymour Pierce's Harris told ESPN Soccernet: "Liverpool is one of the best football brands in the world - but it is currently suffering.

"Liverpool finds it hard to come near to its main rivals in the Premier League because it doesn't have the matchday attendance to compete at the highest level. Anfield is limited to 45,362 and without the stadium source of revenue it is not able to fund investment in the team that is required by all top clubs in this highly competitive climate.

"Liverpool requires further investment in the team to compete, and for that reason it would benefit from new owners who could invest and give the club the backing to build the new stadium that it needs."

No one knows better the degree of difficulty in pulling off a takeover at Anfield. Harris brokered a bid from a Kuwaiti investor, which had an excellent opportunity to take Liverpool a stage further with big investment from the Middle East. The Kuwaiti offer followed closely on the heels of an approach from Dubai's DIC which ultimately was topped by the bid which saw Hicks and Gillett assume joint control.

Harris, the former Football League chairman, says: "We came very close in July last year when the Kuwaitis pulled out at the last minute.

"The problem at Liverpool is actually straightforward - a short-term debt level which restricts its capacity to build a new stadium and invest further to enhance the playing squad. It is hampered like many other clubs by the continuing difficulty of raising money in the world's capital markets.

"Liverpool has not had a sustained period of success for many, many years. Yes, they won the Champions League a few years ago, but the club needs a sustained period of success, and that is not happening."

The fans turned on Rafa Benitez in the Champions League defeat by Lyon, but George Gillett has issued a statement backing the manager, although that has not yet been endorsed by Tom Hicks.

Earlier this week, ESPN Soccernet revealed the financial importance of qualifying each season for the Champions League, suggesting that without the competition's £30m bounty underpinning the clubs interest repayments, there would instantly be a crisis situation.

No one at Anfield would have envisaged that the team that nearly won the title last season would now be languishing in eighth place, with little prospect of winning the title, and more significantly from a financial point of view, threatened with the prospect of not finishing in the top four.

Such factors appear to make the clash with Manchester United a make-or-break encounter of enormous importance.

Liverpool FC Must Go Back To Basics To Solve Crisis

Whoever mischievously booked Jurgen Klinsmann as a television pundit on Tuesday night must have known what was coming.

Short of donning a cowl and carrying a sickle, the German seemingly embodies the grim reaper threatening Rafael Benitez’s reign at Liverpool, appearing only at the darkest of times for the Spaniard.

And the storm clouds are once again gathering around the Anfield manager after a demoralising, damaging defeat to Lyon.

A fourth successive setback, Liverpool’s worst losing run in more than 22 years, has cast serious doubt over Champions League progress as an underwhelming campaign plumbed new depths.

When Liverpool’s European future was threatened in similar fashion two years ago, the heads of American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks were turned towards Klinsmann.

The German’s subsequent unadulterated failure in charge of Bayern Munich last season while Liverpool challenged strongly for the Premier League title indicated it was one particular bullet dodged.

But Benitez now finds himself back in the firing line, although with Gillett and Hicks struggling to see eye-to-eye on pretty much anything, it’s unlikely any triggers will be pulled in the foreseeable future.

Certain sections of the Liverpool support, though, are beginning to have their patience and faith in the manager sorely tested.

Witness the jeers that met the final whistle on Tuesday and, more tellingly, the decision to replace goalscorer Yossi Benayoun, a rare attacking threat for Liverpool on the evening, in the closing moments.

So, barely five months after their thrilling yet futile attempt to chase down Manchester United, what has gone wrong?

Of course, Tuesday wasn’t the first time a Benitez substitution has met with disapproval from the Anfield faithful. Almost 12 months has passed since the Spaniard was berated for hauling off Javier Mascherano and not Lucas Leiva during a goalless home draw with Fulham.

Some things don’t change. And while Lucas is conveniently made the fall guy by fans apparently unable to point the finger at the shortcomings of more experienced players, the fact remains the central midfield pairing of the Brazilian and Mascherano lacks the required guile at this level.

Worries over preparation in pre-season have been compounded by a lengthening injury list, and there is a very real prospect of entering Sunday’s crucial Anfield showdown against United without Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.

The manager often cites last season’s home win over their bitter North West rivals as evidence of how the team can cope without their talismanic duo.

But the line-up that September afternoon included Robbie Keane and Xabi Alonso, players who, for varying reasons, are now at pastures new.

And there’s the problem. Since the start of the year, Liverpool have lost a main frontline striker in Keane, their most experienced centre-back in Sami Hyypia, and their most influential midfielder in Alonso.

None have so far been sufficiently replaced. Whether that has been through lack of available funds, lack of foresight or Benitez’s transfer policy is open to debate.

What’s not is that the failure to recruit comparable strength to the squad has contributed to six defeats in 13 games this season, more than in the whole of the previous campaign.

Benitez’s admission after last weekend’s surrender at Sunderland that Liverpool cannot withstand the absence of five first-team regulars was in tacit agreement with this view.

Few would have expected Danny Ayala, Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly to have started games in anything other than the Carling Cup during the opening weeks.

And Benitez hasn’t helped himself with some curious team selections and a stubborn refusal to change either tactics or personnel in the face of overwhelming evidence they aren’t working.

Admittedly, the Spaniard could have done without the unwelcome surprise of Alberto Aquilani’s recovery from his ankle injury taking twice as long as first expected.

The Italian could make his belated bow in next Wednesday’s Carling Cup clash at Arsenal, and will have to cope with the anticipated pressure to instantly deliver on his £20m price tag and provide the creativity Liverpool’s midfield is so sorely missing.

But it’s not only the supporting cast that have been found wanting, too many first-team regulars falling way short of the high standards they have set during the past 18 months.

Mascherano, preoccupied by summer interest from Barcelona and the malaise that threatened Argentina’s World Cup finals place, has underwhelmed, Jamie Carragher by his own admission below par, and Gerrard unable to consistently stamp his influence on games.

Even Torres, despite his eight-goal haul, has produced intermittently. Indeed, only Pepe Reina and new signing Glen Johnson can largely be absolved of any genuine blame.

The resilience and unity for which Liverpool became noted last season just isn’t there, meaning they are more likely to concede last-minute goals, as on Tuesday, than score one. Simply, they are too easy to beat, falling whenever any half-decent opposition has been put before them.

It could be argued Liverpool are suffering a curious kind of hangover from their exhilarating run-in last season.

Since the defeat at Middlesbrough in February, Benitez’s side, previously founded on watertight defence and gaining a vice-like grip on proceedings, had no option but to change tack and go for broke in an attempt to close the gap in terms of both points and goal difference on United.

That cavalier attitude transformed Liverpool into the great entertainers but exposed their renowned backline, precisely the criticism they have attracted this campaign.

Maybe a return, if only temporary, to the previous obdurate, composed and efficient machine can help rebuild a confidence clearly shattered by recent events.

Otherwise, Klinsmann may find more television work coming his way sooner rather than later.

Reds Sign Spain Deal

Liverpool Football Club today announced the Spain Tourism Board has signed a three-year deal with the Reds to become the club's 'Official Destination Partner'.

Liverpool FC have a well established affinity with Spain and the deal will enable the Spain Tourism Board, also known as Turespana, to promote Spain's beauty and diversity to a worldwide audience, commencing from this season.

Turespana will be entitled to an extensive rights inventory that will offer them prominent exposure, engagement with Liverpool Football Club's global fan base and the opportunity for fans to experience Spain through some exciting initiatives at Anfield.

Turespana's Head of Marketing and Communications, Enrique Ruiz de Lera, said: "We are developing an integrated sport marketing strategy worldwide to capitalise on the large amount of Spanish players that are world icons in many sports like football, tennis, basketball and racing.

"Liverpool Football Club, as the Premier League club with the best Spanish connection was an obvious choice for us and we look forward to a long-term partnership that will allow us to talk to the huge LFC fan base, especially in UK and Asia."

Ian Ayre, Liverpool Football Club Commercial Director, added: "Working with Turespana makes absolute sense for Liverpool Football Club.

"Spain has had a huge influence on our Club in the modern era, and thanks to our Spanish manager and Spanish contingent of players both past and present, we have developed strong links with the country.

"The link between Liverpool Football Club and Spain is recognised all over the world and we look forward to developing a number of initiatives."