Morientes seeks another final flourish

Though his personal torment could be manifest at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow where, despite the ineligibility of Robbie Fowler and Luis Garcia the 29-year-old is not guaranteed a starting place against West Ham, Morientes has not inspired sympathy in the friends he left behind at the Bernabeu.

His contribution has been minimal, but the striker's phenomenal cup final record has continued at Liverpool where four showpiece occasions in the past 15 months - the Carling Cup final, the Uefa Super Cup, the World Club Championship final and now the FA Cup final (Morientes was cup-tied for last year's Champions' League win) - has taken his tally of final appearances to 20.

With victory in 13 of those, plus two La Liga titles to his credit, Morientes is among the most decorated players in the game but as his 2003 Spanish championship was the last trophy of the galactico era, there is now severe medal envy back home.

"The people [at Madrid] that I keep in touch with, such as Iker Casillas and Michel Salgado, haven't exactly shown jealousy towards me but they are envious," Morientes reveals. Even Raul? "Raul is a different case because he is the flagship of Real."

There was a time when Morientes also invoked pride in Madrid, before players were bought on the basis of their corporate value rather than their worth to the team, and it is a relationship he has yet to find at Anfield. He admits: "I have to be realistic and say I'm never going to be able to share the same sentiment as "Carra" [Jamie Carragher] and [Steven] Gerrard, for example, who are from Liverpool and have lived and breathed this club." But he adds that he is "very proud" of his feelings for Liverpool.

Morientes has proved there is life after Madrid - in 2004 when he dispatched his then employers out of the Champions' League in guiding Monaco to the final. Liverpool are still waiting, and, if they receive the right offer this summer, tomorrow's final could mark the forward's final final. "I'm the first to be disappointed with my form since I have come to Liverpool," he confesses, "but I don't see this as my last game, not at all. I have got two years left on my contract and unless anything out of the ordinary happens I see myself starting the next season at Liverpool."

* Liverpool have come to the aid of fans whose Cup final tickets were stolen, by releasing tickets that had been held back for a ballot.A 36-year-old Liverpool man was arrested yesterday.

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