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Friday, August 30, 2002
Litmanen returns to Ajax on free transfer

Phil Thompson believes Jari Litmanen's 'love affair' with Ajax was the real reason why the Finnish ace has quit Liverpool.

Jari Litmanen
Jari Litmanen: On way out
Litmanen has left Anfield a day before the transfer window shuts after 19 difficult months, to rekindle his dream days in Holland, where he twice figured in a European Cup Final for the Dutch masters.

He has moved to Ajax on a free, which is exactly how he arrived from Barcelona in January last year.

Litmanen, capped 76 times for Finland, moves on with Liverpool's number two Thompson saying: 'He made his name at Ajax and is a legend there. He wanted to go back and nobody wanted to stop him. We just hope he does very well for them.

'Although he says that Liverpool was his first love as a kid, if you were to ask him now what is his team, he would say Ajax.

'He's always had very fond memories of Amsterdam and the fans there, he's a hero to them.'

Liverpool discovered the adulation Litmanen still receives from the Dutch when they played in a pre-season tournament in Amsterdam a little more than a year ago.

Such was the hysteria, Litmanen broke off from the Liverpool team group to throw flowers to the fans as they chanted his name.

Thompson said: 'We discovered how well he is still thought of at Ajax when we played a pre-season tournament there a year or so ago.

'They still chant his name now, so there has always been a love affair between player and club.

'The lure of all that has been too much for him to turn down. And it's fair to say that for him to have a regular place in the side at Liverpool would have been unlikely.

'He obviously sees himself getting that regular place back at Ajax, and it's the love of his career.'

Litmanen turned down one earlier approach from Ajax this summer because they wouldn't meet his wage demands. But now he will sign a one-year contract with a further option.

He made just 24 starts for Liverpool and made another 24 coming on as substitute.

Thompson said: 'It was difficult for him here. He's always done well and scored vital goals. He's a good player but he prefers to play off the front man.

'That's something we could do in away games but at home we preferred to play two out-and-out strikers, and that was a problem for him.

'Now Jari has gone to Ajax, and that's a little sad. If he'd had played a lot more games for us maybe he would still be here, but he didn't manage that.

'It was always difficult to fit him into the team the way he plays. But he's been a good professional and never complained, just accepted that.

'He made his name at Ajax and is a legend there. He wanted to go back and nobody wanted to stop him. We just hope he does very well for them.'

Liverpool do not have a game now until Monday's TV clash with Newcastle, and Thompson confirms that they have no injury problems to contend with as they try to protect their 100% home record.


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