Liverpool confirm summer signing of Voronin

February 26, 2007

Liverpool have confirmed the summer arrival of Ukraine striker Andriy Voronin just hours after boss Rafael Benitez was describing veteran Robbie Fowler as the club's best finisher.

Voronin, 27, will join on a Bosman free transfer at the end of the season from Bayer Leverkusen, a signing that will almost certainly signal the end of Fowler's second spell at Anfield.

The Kop favourite took his goals tally to seven in seven starts this term with the two penalties that helped beat Sheffield United 4-0 on Saturday.

And, although Benitez was cagey over his long-term future, the conclusion of a deal for Voronin will suggest that 31-year-old Fowler will not have his one-year contract extended in the summer.

Voronin has previously played for Cologne, Mainz and Borussia Moenchengladbach and also represented his country on 40 occasions, scoring five goals in the process.

On the assumption that Benitez does not sell Craig Bellamy in the summer following his alleged antics on a Portuguese training camp, Voronin will become the Merseysiders' fourth striker.

Benitez may also try to sign a proven 20-goal-a-season forward, which would only hasten the departure of Fowler, who returned to the club in January last year for what was an unexpected swansong for one of the club's modern legends.

Benitez initially gave Fowler a six-month contract, extending that by a year last summer.

But it is unlikely sentiment will come into the Spaniard's plans for the future now he has been promised a sizeable transfer kitty by the club's new American owners.

But that has not stopped Benitez hailing Fowler as the best finisher at the club.

He told Liverpool's official website: 'He's a really good finisher, still the best we have, and I sometimes think that if we could have Bellamy running at defenders and carrying the ball 20 yards, then turning into Fowler with the goal in sight, it would be perfect.

'If you create chances for him, you know you can rely on his finishing and that is a very important quality to have.

'We have four very good strikers, all with different skills. You can make the most of Peter Crouch's aerial ability, Dirk Kuyt works hard between the lines and Bellamy runs behind defences.

'Robbie operates in and around the box and, of course, he snaps up chances. We can talk about Robbie's future at a later date but, if he scores every time he plays over the next few months, you never know.

'You need a regular supply of goals from someone and, if Robbie is not with us next season, we will have to look for another like him.

'It will not be easy, but it is clear we would need someone with the same qualities.'

Fowler is clinging to his dream of another Liverpool contract. He said: 'I still feel I have a few years left in me yet, and I will be carrying on for a bit longer.

'I still think I've a lot to contribute as a player and I am just focusing on playing as much as I can between now and the end of the season. There is a lot to play for.'

Speaking in a Liverpool Echo interview, Fowler added: 'Some people have mentioned me moving into coaching and I even saw a move to the USA mentioned, but I honestly haven't even thought about anything like that yet.

'Obviously it's not easy to come back into the team when you have not played for a while, and I think that showed in some parts of my game.

'I'd prefer to score from open play rather than penalties, but I will take any opportunity that comes along.

'But I know I am not expected to start against Manchester United on Saturday, there are players coming back from injury.'