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By ESPN Staff

Fowler's return puts Cisse's future in doubt

The shock return of Robbie Fowler to Liverpool casts further doubt on the Anfield future of striker Djibril Cisse.

Yesterday, 30-year-old Kop idol Fowler completed a dream move back to his spiritual home after Manchester City allowed him to leave on a free transfer.

And with Cisse struggling for confidence and form, should Fowler quickly rediscover his eye for goal at a club where he previously scored 173 goals in 330 appearances the France forward could be staring at an ignominious exit.

Cisse missed a sitter in the 1-0 defeat against Manchester United last weekend and on Thursday evening he was cautioned for common assault after police received a call from his pregnant wife Jude asking for assistance.

But it is the arrival of the man affectionately called God at Anfield which is the biggest threat to £14million signing made by Gerard Houllier - ironically the man who oversaw Fowler's exit in 2001.

'If I am honest I didn't ever really believe I would come back,' said Fowler.

'But obviously since I have left, deep down I have always wanted to come back and it has been a long time but I am glad to say I am back now.

'Leaving was probably one of my biggest regrets I have had in football. It will be nice to get back out at Anfield wearing the red shirt again. Just to walk back out the tunnel will be amazing.

'You put on the red shirt again and it is just an amazing feeling and I am glad I am going to get that opportunity again.'

Fowler is ineligible for the FA Cup fourth round tie at Portsmouth tomorrow but could make his comeback against Birmingham on Wednesday.

Manager Rafael Benitez believes Fowler's passion for Liverpool will act as an example for every other player at the club.

'He has not been signed just because he loves the club, he has been signed because he is one of the best goalscorers ever to play in the Premiership and he can score goals for us right now,' he told the club's website.

'He has got a wealth of experience and he gives us more attacking options. He is a different kind of striker to what we have at the club and that is good for the team.

'People can talk about having a lot of money to buy players but we have just signed a player with a passion and a heart for this club that no amount of money can buy.

'We are close to a very high level right now but with Robbie we can go even higher.'

Fowler is not cup tied in Europe so can play in the Champions League when Liverpool resume the defence of their crown against Benfica in the last 16 next month.

Benitez, who declined to pay £16million for Michael Owen at the beginning of the season, has now got one of Liverpool's greatest strikers for nothing.

'My idea is for Liverpool to take one step forward and I think Robbie can help us make that step,' he added. 'It is a boost for the team, a boost for the supporters and a boost for Robbie himself.

'I am not sure I have ever seen a player quite so happy to be joining a club before. It's a signing that will lift everyone who loves Liverpool because Robbie is a great finisher who can help us reach a new level.'

• Meanwhile, as reports claim Fowler has taken a salary cut to return to Liverpool, Leeds have confirmed they are still paying the former England striker a wage.

Fowler had a 14-month spell at Elland Road which ended when Leeds looked to cash in on a saleable asset as they plunged into a financial crisis.

However as part of the agreement which took him to Manchester City, Leeds agreed to keep paying Fowler a proportion of his wages, to make up for the shortfall which came with moving to Eastlands.

Leeds chief operating officer Shaun Harvey told the Yorkshire Post that agreement would stand until the summer, the time Fowler's contract at Leeds was originally due to expire.

Harvey said: 'Our agreement is with Robbie Fowler and as such there will be no change.

'Leeds are not going to be relieved of any financial burden, the deal was agreed that Leeds would continue to pay Robbie Fowler until the middle of 2006 and that deal stands no matter where he plays.'