Ian Ayre has hailed Liverpool’s pending return to the UEFA Champions League, claiming it will help them attract top targets this summer.
Having finished seventh place in the Premier League last season, few expected the Reds to be challenging for a top-four place this time round. Yet they have benefited from managerial changes at the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea, whilst the absence of any European football has also allowed them to focus on making progress domestically.
Even so, the rate of their progress has been nothing short of astounding. A 3-2 win at Norwich City last weekend ensure they will be in the Champions League next season, yet more impressive so, they are on the verge of winning a first league title since the 1989-90 campaign, when Kenny Dalglish led them to an 18th championship.
If they beat Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, they will eliminate the second-placed Blues from the race, and it would also mean City would need to win all their games on rely on the Reds slipping up in at least one of their remaining two matches. And having made such progress on the field this term, managing director Ayre is confident Rodgers will now be able to shop in the elite window during the summer market.
“There is no question we always expected that the squad we need for next season will be very different to the squad that we have needed for this year when we were not playing in European competition,” Ayre said. “It will cost what it costs when we decide who the manager wants to buy. That has always been on the cards.
“It is fairly obvious that we set out with an ambition to get into the Champions League. It has always been tougher in the transfer market when you are not competing at the highest level. We had the issue with Luis (Suarez) during last summer because he wanted to play in the best games against the best players. That is always a factor.
“We have always been fortunate to be able to bring great players here despite that but there is no question it opens up a few doors for us and makes it a little bit easier. We are guaranteed Champions League football. It is an unbelievable achievement from where we were. Now we are guaranteed third and we are determined to push on.”
Of all the speculation which tends to hit the tabloids again at around this time of the year, potential Liverpool targets have been fairly thin on the ground. However, earlier this week, talkSPORT claimed that the suspension of Barcelona’s transfer ban may allow Rodgers to compete with Milan for £8million-rated Christian Tello, the 22-year-old forward.
Meanwhile, the club have released £100million plans to expand their Anfield stadium to a capacity of 53,250 in time for the 2016/17 season. This would involve the redevelopment of the existing Main Stand, and a new ’96th Avenue’ to include the Hillsborough memorial. Further to this, there are plans for a second phase of the redevelopment, which would see the Anfield Road stand increased to give a total ground capacity of 58,000.