By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens

Ian Ayre will step down as Liverpool chief executive in May 2017, the club confirmed on Monday night.

Ayre, 52, has given the Anfield hierarchy 15 months’ notice of his intention to stand down and has refused pleas from American owners Fenway Sports Group to reconsider.

The father of four, who also has three grandchildren, has cited the remorseless intensity of running a club of Liverpool’s stature as the primary reason behind his decision.

“It’s probably the most difficult decision I’ve made, certainly in my professional career,” he said.

“It was a difficult decision to come here because I knew the size of the task here at Liverpool and it’s an even more difficult decision to make in leaving.

“But if you care about the club – which I do – and you have so much invested in the club, not just having worked here but through your family and your time as a supporter, then you need to do what you feel is right for the club as well as yourself.

“I feel the timing and the level of commitment that is required, this is the right time and I hope that people see that given the sort of notice I have given to the owners is a mark of respect to them and to the football club.”

Both Ayre and club owners FSG insist that the recent season ticket price protests, which saw Ayre come under heavy criticism from supporters, played no part in his decision.

In other Liverpool news, Mario Gotze has revealed he has been in regular contact with Jurgen Klopp.