Fowler wins one-year Anfield deal

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The Independent Football

Robbie Fowler had no intention of going anywhere else, but while it took the 31-year-old less than an hour yesterday to finalise the terms of a new 12-month contract at Liverpool, Rafael Benitez insisted sentiment had not influenced his decision to retain the services of Anfield's prodigal son.

The former England international signed a six-month contract when he joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Manchester City and, despite four goals in 15 appearances since January, he has been tormented by Benitez's refusal to provide assurances over his future. "I have been treating every game as though it could be my last for Liverpool, so you can imagine how happy I am now," he said last night.

Benitez informed the fifth-highest goalscorer in Liverpool's history yesterday morning that the club had taken up the option of a one-year extension.

"I spoke with Robbie, Rick [Parry, Liverpool's chief executive], spoke with the agent and maybe 50 minutes later it was decided," the manager said. "It was not an emotional decision. If it had been, I would have made it a month ago. I delayed because I was analysing everything. We put all the positives and risks in the balance, and this is where we are."

Fowler is at the more modest end of the pay scale at Liverpool and the fact that he did not cost a transfer fee and has improved his fitness over the past six months was also taken into consideration by Benitez, who will continue efforts to find clubs willing to meet the salary demands of Djibril Cissé and Fernando Morientes this summer.

"It's a nice story that Robbie is not thinking about money but about playing for 'his' club," said the Spaniard, who hopes to engineer room for another leading striker during the close season by selling Cissé, Morientes or both.

Fowler, who will sign his new contract next week, is cup-tied for the FA Cup final and therefore expects to make his last appearance of the season at Portsmouth tomorrow. A Liverpool victory would see them leapfrog Manchester United into the second automatic qualifying berth for the Champions' League, if Sir Alex Ferguson's side fail to overcome Charlton.

* The Tranmere manager Brian Little has left the club by mutual consent. The former Aston Villa manager joined in October 2003, taking them to the FA Cup sixth round in his first season. Jason McAteer will take charge for the last game of the season.

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