Morientes plays down suggestion of return to Spain

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The Independent Football

Fernando Morientes yesterday distanced himself from a possible move to Espanyol by insisting he is settled in England and prefers the Premiership to La Liga. Sources in Spain suggested that the 29-year-old Liverpool striker could become a target for the Barcelona club if his friend and former Real Madrid and Spain boss Jose Antonio Camacho is appointed as the sports director there next month.

That appointment would depend on whether Claudio Biern wins the club's presidential election next month. Biern is fronting a group called "Nou Espanyol" and is trying to take control of the club. The Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez would be unlikely to even consider such a move as he considers the former Real striker pivotal to his future plans for the club, and Morientes said yesterday: "I want to stay at Liverpool for a long time because the fans are yet to see the best of me.

"They really are unbelievable and very different to those in Spain. They sing and really get behind you from the first whistle. I want to repay them for the faith they have shown in me."

Morientes admitted that he struggled in his early months on Merseyside, having signed from Real in last year's January transfer window, but he said: "I am really enjoying it at Liverpool now. For me to be here is a very good thing. The first three months were difficult as my English was very bad and I was struggling for fitness. Now it's improving and my life in Liverpool is good. My family is very happy here, too, and my children speak English no problem.

"After playing for so long in La Liga it was a struggle adapting to life in the Premiership at first. The style is very different. It's a lot stronger over here but now I prefer the Premiership to La Liga."

Morientes also sees the incentive of trying to claim a fourth European Cup winners' medal - he already won three with Real Madrid - as Liverpool continue the defence of the crown they won in Istanbul last May.

Morientes was cup-tied and had to watch from the sidelines. He said: "To miss out last season's Champions' League triumph was a source of great frustration. The team did so well and I was extremely happy for all of my team-mates but I'd have loved to be part of it. I was always well aware of the situation, though, so I can't complain and I'll still never forget that night in Istanbul. It was unbelievable. I was doing co-commentary for Spanish television but once the game was over I made my way straight down on to the pitch where I celebrated with the lads as if I'd played in the game itself.

"That night meant so much to everyone at the club. This season is different, I can play, I'm enjoying it and I'll be doing all I can to try and help Liverpool win a sixth European Cup."