|Date of Birth||
15 December 1984
|Place of Birth||
1.91 m (6'3")
Martin Škrtel (born 15 December 1984) is a Slovakian international footballer, who played as a defender for Liverpool from 2008 to 2016. He was signed in January 2008 by then-manager Rafael Benitez for what was at the time a record fee for a defender for the club. He spent most of his career at Anfield as a first-choice centre back, initially partnering Jamie Carragher and then later Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho. In 2012, the Liverpool fans voted Skrtel the Standard Chartered Player of the Season for 2011-12. After falling out of favour under new manager Jurgen Klopp, Skrtel left for Fenerbahce in 2016, after eight years at the club.
Skrtel was signed by Liverpool on 11 January 2008 from Zenit St. Petersburg for a fee of £6,500,000. This made Skrtel the most expensive defender in Liverpool's history, surpassing the £6,000,000 spent on Daniel Agger two years prior, however Dejan Lovren now holds the record having signed for £20,000,000 in 2014. Upon signing, manager Rafael Benitez said of Skrtel: "He is aggressive, quick, is good in the air and I think he's a very good player for the future and also for the present. He is very competitive, but his mentality for me is very good." Skrtel was presented with the number 37 shirt which he has worn ever since.
His debut came as a 70th minute substitute against Aston Villa on 21 January 2008, during which he gave an unassured and nervous-looking performance. Five days later, Skrtel played in Liverpool's FA Cup tie against non-league minnows Havant & Waterlooville and continued to look unsure of himself. He clumsily conceded a corner from which Havant went 1-0 up and later scored an own goal to put Havant 2-1 up. This early season form concerned Liverpool fans, however his form quickly picked up and he appeared in 18 of the remaining 23 matches of the 2007-08 season. He particularly impressed in an away 0-0 draw at Chelsea on 10 February, with the Liverpool fans voting him the man of the match, and he again claimed the award for his performance in Liverpool's 1-0 win in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield on 30 March.
Skrtel carried on his good form into the 2008-09 season, and he kept Daniel Agger out of the starting XI as Rafa Benitez's preferred central defence partner to Jamie Carragher. However Skrtel's season was disrupted by injury on 5 October 2008 when he ruptured his posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a game against Man City. The injury sidelined Skrtel for two months and allowed Agger to retake his place in the team. When Skrtel returned from injury however, he came back into the team and largely impressed as he appeared in the majority of games for the remainder of the season. He made his 50th appearance in a Red shirt against Tottenham in a League game at Anfield on 24 May 2009.
Skrtel again had to suffer an injury-hit season in 2009-10, however he did score his first Liverpool goal on 21 November 2009 against Man City in a 2-2 draw, after turning in a Steven Gerrard free kick from close range. His injury came on 25 February 2010 in a 3-1 victory over Unirea Urziceni in the Europa League when he broke a metatarsal in his right foot. The injury again sidelined Skrtel for two months as he finished the season having played only 29 of Liverpool's 56 matches. Despite this, Skrtel signed a contract extension on 18 August 2010, committing himself to Liverpool until 2014.
Although Skrtel had already established himself as one of Liverpool's key defenders in the previous seasons, the 2010-11 season was in many ways a breakthrough campaign for him. In this season, Skrtel fully established himself as a leading player for the side as he played every minute of all 38 of Liverpool's League games. Skrtel was one of only two outfield players in the Premier League to achieve this feat- the other being Everton's Leighton Baines. New manager Roy Hodgson firmly established Skrtel and Carragher as his first-choice centre back pairing, again displacing Daniel Agger to the bench. He scored his second goal in a Liverpool shirt against Tottenham in a 2-1 loss on 28 November 2010, as he struck a rebound from his own header. Unfortunately however Skrtel also scored an own goal in the match. On 6 December 2010, Skrtel made his 100th Liverpool appearance, against the side whom he had made his Liverpool debut against- Aston Villa. On his 26th birthday- 15 December 2010- Skrtel was given the honour of captaining Liverpool in their Europa League match against FC Utrecht at Anfield which finished 0-0. When Hodgson was replaced as manager by Kenny Dalglish in January 2011, Skrtel retained his place in the team and scored his third Liverpool goal on 2 April 2011 against West Brom- at the time being managed by former boss Roy Hodgson. Skrtel scored with a header from a Raul Meireles corner to put his side 1-0 up, although the matched finished 2-1 to West Brom.
In the 2011-12 season, Skrtel initially began as Kenny Dalglish's third-choice centre back as Agger and Carragher were preferred in the starting XI. He quickly found himself back in the team however in an unfamiliar right back role, as injury forced both Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly to the sidelines. He was brought on for the injured Kelly on 27 August 2011 in a game against Bolton and impressed in his new role, even scoring his fourth Liverpool goal with a header from a Charlie Adam corner. On 18 September 2011 in a game against Tottenham however, Skrtel- still at right back- was given a torrid time by Spurs winger Gareth Bale. Skrtel was sent off for two bookable offences- both for fouls on Bale- after 60 minutes as Skrtel failed to cope with Bale's pace. In this game however Daniel Agger suffered a rib injury which brought Skrtel back into his preferred centre back role for the following games. When Agger returned from injury, Dalglish brought him back into the side ahead of Jamie Carragher with Skrtel and Agger forming a new first-choice centre back partnership. The partnership proved to be a revelation, with the two players arguably being Liverpool's star performers as the Reds kept themselves in contention for Champions League qualification going into the new year, with one of the best defensive records in the League. On 29 October 2011, both Skrtel and Agger made their 100th League appearance for Liverpool in a 2-0 win against West Brom. On 18 December 2011, Skrtel scored his fifth Liverpool goal with a header from a Craig Bellamy corner in a 2-0 away win at Aston Villa. Skrtel made his 150th Liverpool appearance in all competitions in an away 1-0 victory against Man City in the League Cup semi final on 11 January 2012. Skrtel scored his sixth Liverpool goal in a 6-1 FA Cup win over Brighton on 19 February 2012 with a header from a Steven Gerrard corner.
On 26 February 2012, Skrtel won his first major honour with Liverpool after a starring role in Liverpool's penalty shootout win over Cardiff in the 2012 League Cup Final. With Liverpool trailing 1-0 from the first half, Skrtel scored Liverpool's equalising goal when he reacted quickest to stab home a loose ball from a Stewart Downing corner. This goal made Skrtel the first Liverpool player to score at Wembley since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup Final. Skrtel went from strength to strength as the season went on as his confidence and defensive prowess grew with his partnership with Agger. He was given the captain's armband for the first time in the League on 10 April 2012 as Liverpool beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Ewood Park. Although Liverpool's League campaign was ultimately a disappointing one, both Skrtel and Agger received many plaudits for their efforts. This culminated in Skrtel being voted the Standard Chartered Player of the Season by the Liverpool fans. He tallied 44% of the vote, beating Luis Suarez into second with 33% and Agger into third with 4%. Upon winning the award, Skrtel said: "It's a great feeling. It's my first big award at Liverpool and I'm very happy about it. I think it was my best season since I came to Liverpool and I'm happy with my performances. I hope I will carry on in this way."
Skrtel's form has seen him recognised as one of Europe's leading central defenders, and in the summer of 2012, speculation began to mount that Skrtel was attracting the attentions of clubs such as Premier League champions Manchester City. He committed his future to Liverpool however on 20 August 2012 by signing a new long-term contract at Anfield, reportedly tying him down to the Reds until 2016.
On 26 August 2012, with Liverpool now managed by Brendan Rodgers, Skrtel netted Liverpool's first League goal of the 2012-13 season with a powerful header from a Steven Gerrard corner in a home tie against defending champions, Manchester City. Skrtel however- with Liverpool leading 2-1- played a short backpass to Pepe Reina in the second half that allowed City striker Carlos Tevez to net an equaliser and ultimately cost Liverpool three points. Skrtel netted his second goal of the season on 22 December 2012, opening the scoring in the 4-0 victory over Fulham with an impressive half-volley after the ball fell to him from a corner. Skrtel made his 200th appearance for Liverpool on 13 January 2013 in an away League tie against Manchester United. Unfortunately the milestone was not one to remember for Skrtel as United triumphed 2-1.
On 27 January 2013, Liverpool suffered shock 3-2 defeat in the FA Cup against League One side Oldham. After the match, Brendan Rodgers criticised Liverpool's defence- of which Skrtel was a part- of making their striker Matt Smith 'look like Didier Drogba.' Talk circulated that Rodgers was concerned with how his Liverpool defence- and Skrtel in particular- were prone to being 'bullied' by powerful centre forwards, and for the coming games, Skrtel found himself relegated to third-choice centre back, with Jamie Carragher stepping into the side alongside Daniel Agger. On 25 February 2013, Skrtel admitted his frustration at the situation, and suggested there was little he could do to reverse Brendan Rodgers' decision. Speculation immediately began to mount that Skrtel would leave Liverpool in the summer. Skrtel completed the 2012-13 season only performing a bit-part role for the club.
Despite this, Skrtel remained at the club during the summer with Liverpool even rejecting an offer from Napoli- now managed by former coach Rafa Benitez. On 1 September 2013, Skrtel made his first appearance of the 2013-14 season, starting the game against Manchester United, coming in for the injured Kolo Toure. His performance was lauded, with him being named man of the match as Liverpool recorded a 1-0 win. Skrtel retained his place in a new-look back three for the forthcoming matches, and received praise for his consistently commanding performances as he appeared to recapture his best form for Liverpool.
Skrtel cemented his place in the Liverpool team, and netted his first goal of the season on 9 November 2013 in a home 4-0 win against Fulham, powering in a header from a Steven Gerrard corner. On 1 December 2013, Skrtel netted an own goal in Liverpool's disappointing 3-1 defeat against Hull. Many also credited him with a second own goal in the match as Jake Livermore's opener took a wicked deflection off the Liverpool centre back. Skrtel scored another own goal later on 7 December 2013, prodding a cross past Simon Mignolet in Liverpool's 4-1 victory over West Ham. He scored his second goal of the season on 29 December 2013, giving Liverpool the lead in the 3rd minute away to Chelsea with a tap in from Philippe Coutinho's free kick. Liverpool went on to lose 2-1 however, and Skrtel was criticised for allowing Samuel Eto'o to connect with a cross to score Chelsea's second goal. This was one of a number of recent incidents in which Skrtel was criticised for failing to prevent a goal. He was also frequently being spotted pulling the shirts of his opponents in the box at set plays, triggering calls for referees to penalise him by awarding penalties. Skrtel retained his place in the team however, and his performances garnered increasing praise going into early 2014. On 25 January 2014, Skrtel required his head to be stapled part way through Liverpool's FA Cup tie away to Bournemouth. He was able to continue playing in the match however.
On 8 February 2014, Skrtel scored a brace as Liverpool beat League leaders Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield. He netted the opener in the first minute, volleying in a Steven Gerrard free kick, and added the second on ten minutes with a header across goal that found the top corner of the net, this time from a Gerrard corner. On 23 February 2014, Skrtel came under criticism for a poor performance in Liverpool's 4-3 home win over Swansea. Skrtel deflected Wilfried Bony's header past his own keeper Simon Mignolet for his third own goal of the season, before felling Bony in the box to gift Swansea a penalty, from which they were able to temporarily level the tie at 3-3.
On 22 March 2014, Skrtel netted a brace in Liverpool's 6-3 away win over Cardiff. His first was a volley from Philippe Coutinho's cross, whilst his second was a header from Coutinho's corner. He scored again on 13 April 2014, flicking in a header from a Steven Gerrard corner to put Liverpool 2-0 up in their 3-2 home win over Man City, in a match that was being billed as a potential title decider. On 11 May 2014, in Liverpool's end-of-season clash with Newcastle, Skrtel scored his fourth own goal of the season as he prodded in Yoan Gouffran's cross. Liverpool recovered to win 2-1, however the Reds finished runners-up in the Premier League to Man City. Skrtel's seven goals meant he was the league's top scoring defender during the season, however his four own goals was a Premier League record for most own goals scored by a player during a single season. Liverpool's defensive frailty- the Reds shipping 50 goals during the season- was a cause for concern by many and this led to scrutiny over the ability of all of the Reds' backline, including Skrtel.
As the 2014-15 season got underway, Skrtel retained his place in the starting XI, but this time with a new central defensive partner in the shape of Croatian centre back Dejan Lovren. Skrtel along with his defensive colleagues came under heavy criticism during the first half of the season, as Liverpool disappointed and appeared to become even more defensively vulnerable than in the previous campaign.
On 21 December 2014, Skrtel netted his first goal of the season- a last minute equaliser in Liverpool's 2-2 draw at home to Anfield, heading in from an Adam Lallana corner. In an eventful match for the Slovakian, Skrtel had been criticised for his part in both Arsenal goals, and also required stitches in his head after Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud had accidentally trod on his scalp.
On 8 March 2015, Skrtel was forced off early on in Liverpool's FA Cup quarter final match against Blackburn after an awkward fall. Skrtel required lengthy treatment after appearing to lose consciousness. Despite this, it was not expected that he would miss subsequent fixtures.
Two weeks later, Skrtel was involved in a controversial incident with David De Gea in a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United, with the Slovakian stamping on the goalkeeper while chasing the ball. Despite an appeal, the FA deemed it to be intentional, and handed him a three match suspension.
On 10 July 2015, it was confirmed that Skrtel, now one of the club's longest serving players, had committed his future to the club by signing a new three year contract, despite interest from Inter Milan. On 23 September 2015, Skrtel made his 300th appearance for the club, starting in a League Cup third round tie against Carlisle.
Skrtel scored his first goal of the 2015-16 season on 21 November 2015. Skrtel scored a very powerful volley from the edge of the box, beating Joe Hart with its power, and netting Liverpool's 4th in a 4-1 win at the Etihad Stadium. On 6 December 2015 however, he scored an own goal, a deflection off the knee from a shot by Wijnaldum to give Newcastle the lead at St James Park. The home side eventually went on to win 2-0.
On 20 March 2016, Skrtel made his first appearance since December, coming on as a half time substitute while the Reds were 2-0 up at Southampton. Within four minutes, Skrtel gave away a penalty, but Simon Mignolet spared his blushes. The Saints however, came back to win 3-2.
Due to his declining form under Jurgen Klopp, Skrtel fell out of flavour, with Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho becoming the first choice centre-back pairing. Eventually on 14 July 2016, it was confirmed that Skrtel had left the club to Fenerbahce for a reported fee of around £5,500,000. The Slovakian spent eight and a half years at the club, making 320 appearances and scoring 18 goals.
Skrtel is a traditional centre back, with former manager Rafael Benitez comparing him in style to Jamie Carragher. He has a full-bodied, no-nonsense approach to tackling and has excellent aerial ability. As time has passed however, Skrtel has begun to display a greater technical ability and can now often be seen playing the ball from the back, rather than opting for long ball clearances. He will often venture into the opposition half to contribute to attacking play, and has shown that he has a skillful touch with the ball. Over the seasons however, Skrtel has on occasion looked prone to nervousness, and tends to perform better when playing alongside someone with more natural leadership and organisational qualities, such as Carragher or Daniel Agger.
- League Cup: 1 (2012)
- No. 59 on 100 Players Who Shook The Kop (2013)
- Standard Chartered Player of the Season: 2011-12
- Standard Chartered Player of the Month: 1 (February 2012)
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