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Jun 7, 2013

Liverpool 'can still attract top talent'

Liverpool can still sign top-quality players despite failing to qualify for Europe, managing director Ian Ayre told the Liverpool Echo.

• Blog: A question of progress

Brendan Rodgers' side finished the Premier League season in seventh place, 12 points short of a Champions League spot.

They were off the pace in the chase for Europa League qualification too, ending the campaign 11 points behind fifth-placed Tottenham.

Liverpool last played in the Champions League in December 2009 - when they exited at the group stage - but Ayre believes the club's absence from the competition is not a huge stumbling block when it comes to attracting players.

The managing director, who is responsible for conducting negotiations with potential signings, highlighted the fact that Liverpool managed to bring in Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan and striker Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea in January.

"We can still attract top players to Liverpool," he said. "Look at the last transfer window when we brought in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Both had a huge impact on the team.

"As long as we continue to bring in players of that quality, we'll be heading in the right direction.

"I've never been in negotiations with anyone who has said they don't want to sign for Liverpool because we're not big enough or not successful enough.

"We can still attract top talent. It's about finding the right talent at the right price. The deal has to be right for the club."

Liverpool are hoping to complete a £7.7 million deal for Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas over the weekend, having made their first capture of the summer by signing central defender Kolo Toure on a free transfer from Manchester City.

The signing of Toure, 32, marked a departure from the club's preferred policy of bringing in young players.

"We're focused on finding great young talent like Sturridge and Coutinho but we also need experience and leadership," Ayre explained. "It's about getting the right balance."

The managing director is hopeful that manager Rodgers can lead Liverpool back into the Champions League.

"The expectation is keep progressing and of course our ambition is to play in the Champions League," he said.

"This football club is steeped in the tradition of the European Cup. That's where everyone wants to be from the owners down.

"But there is no point saying we expect to finish in this position. All that does is just focus everybody – the world's media – on a particular place.

"We want to be playing in the top flight of European football. That's why fans buy tickets, because they want to see Liverpool at that level. Our ambition is to get there. Whether we do that one year, two years or three, we will see. That's where Liverpool Football Club should be."

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