Rumours have emerged this week that Bundesliga side Wolfsburg will table a £5m bid for Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in the summer. Despite the emergence of these reports, the Slovakian centre-back has refuted suggestions that he is seeking an Anfield exit.
“I have learned about the interest of Wolfsburg only from the internet and don’t even know how true this news is,” said Skrtel.
“One thing is for sure, though – I have a valid contract with Liverpool, I am happy there and if they are happy with me, too, I am not going anywhere.”
Whilst Skrtel’s commitment to the Liverpool cause is commendable, question marks have undoubtedly arisen over his form and ability over the last two seasons. The Slovakian international appeared in half of Liverpool’s Premier League outings during 2009/10, and he has appeared in every single Premier League game for the Reds this term. The side’s performances over this period have been inconsistent, sometimes downright appalling, and a backline once renowned for its organisation and rigidity has markedly deteriorated.
A recent resurgence under the stewardship of Kenny Dalglish, which has included four clean sheets in five league games, has seen Skrtel demonstrate glimpses of his early Anfield form. However, with Liverpool’s new owners Fenway Sports Group notorious for their ruthlessness in the pursuit of success, doubts persist over Skrtel’s long-term Anfield future. Should Liverpool look to cash in on Martin Skrtel this summer?
After arriving from Zenit St. Petersburg in January 2008, Martin Skrtel quickly settled at the club, and established himself as a vital component of Rafa Benitez’s starting line-up. The tall centre-back played a key part in the side’s title challenge of 2008/09, and impressed with his strength, determination and no-nonsense approach. However, a head injury sustained against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of 2009/10 seemed to act as a catalyst for a decline in the Slovak’s performances.
The defender, who is 6ft 4, is often unusually timid in the air for a man of his size. Despite a fearsome physical appearance, Skrtel is frequently bullied by opposition forwards. His inability to successfully cope with new team-mate Andy Carroll during Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Newcastle United earlier this season highlighted the defender’s physical inadequacies and decline. His positional sense has been questionable, and his hesitancy and unimaginative distribution have been evident on several occasions this season.
Although Skrtel is not the only Reds defender to have performed poorly during the last two seasons, it is his mistakes and performances which appear to have attracted the most attention and criticism from the club’s fans. Injuries to Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger facilitated Skrtel’s regular inclusion in Liverpool’s starting line-up, but it remains to be seen whether this will continue now that the aforementioned duo have returned to fitness.
Club stalwart Carragher still commands a starting berth in Liverpool’s defence, and Danish international Agger finally appears to have put his longstanding injury problems behind him. Whilst Dalglish has deployed a three centre-back system in two of Liverpool’s last three games, it is unlikely that he will continue to use this formation in the long run. Carragher’s leadership qualities and Agger’s composure and ball-playing abilities almost certainly guarantee them a starting berth if and when Dalglish reverts to a two centre-back set-up.
In addition to this, Liverpool have a fine crop of young defenders ready to make the step up to first-team football over the next few years. The first-team emergence of 20-year-old Martin Kelly this season has threatened Glen Johnson’s hold over the right-back berth, but the England under-21 international is expected to switch to his preferred position of centre-back at some point over the next few seasons.
Summer recruit Danny Wilson, who has been used frequently in Liverpool’s Europa League campaign this season, will almost certainly be afforded more first-team opportunities in the Premier League next season. Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala, who is currently on loan at Derby County, has been praised by Jamie Carragher, and England’s under-17 European Championship-winning captain Conor Coady has been tipped to make his first-team breakthrough soon.
27 later this year, Skrtel will soon be approaching his prime. Unfortunately it appears as though he hasn’t progressed and developed as well as anticipated at Anfield. Parting ways may prove to be the best move for Martin Skrtel and Liverpool this summer.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul