Martin Skrtel: Thank you for the memories and good luck for the future!
Long-serving Liverpool FC centre-back Martin Skrtel completed his move to Turkish side Fenerbahçe in a £5 million deal. In his eight-and-half-year stint, Skrtel recorded 320 appearances for the Merseyside club. He represented Liverpool in 242 Premier League games, the sixth-highest behind only Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, Pepe Reina and Robbie Fowler.
On the pitch, the 6’ 4” Slovakian was passion personified and wore his heart on his sleeve. It is impossible to forget the number of times he put his body on the line for a team he cared immensely about. It can be said, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is a player who would put his head in places where others wouldn’t dare to put their feet.
Skrtel arrived from Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg in the January of 2008 and settled in well at Liverpool. In 2008-09, his first full season at the club, Skrtel became manager Rafa Benitez’s first choice centre-back partner for Carragher. The two formed a solid pairing and played a major role as Liverpool finished runners-up in the league with the second best defensive record, conceding a meagre 27 goals during the campaign.
Standing by the club during tough times
While money and fame lure even the most famous of football names in the modern era, Skrtel’s tryst with Liverpool has stood the test of time and more. The player signed a two-year contract extension in August 2010, notably during a time when Liverpool was mired in ownership controversies and were on the brink of administration. The Slovakian captain had this to say, back then in August 2010:
"Signing a new contract gives me confidence and I will work hard in training every day to play as many games as possible. You can always improve. I know the good and bad parts of my game and I will keep working.
"Lots of things have changed at the club this year with new players, a new manager and new medical staff. The spirit is very good and we showed that against Arsenal with a great performance. We can build on that and carry it on.”
Nicknamed the ‘Terminator’ for the solidity of his performances on the pitch, the 2011-12 season earned him the Liverpool Player of the Year Award. Skrtel scored a crucial goal against Cardiff City in the League Cup final (which Liverpool went on to win in penalties) and earned a much-coveted trophy playing for his beloved Reds in a season that showcased his rise and dominance as a central defender.
In the seasons that followed, he scored important goals and continued to feature regularly at centre-back for Liverpool.
Playing through pain
It wouldn’t be pushing it if someone were to say that Martin Skrtel redefined the idea of playing through pain. He did so time and again for the Reds, showcasing passion and grit.
The December 2014 clash against Arsenal was one of Skrtel’s most memorable ones in a Liverpool shirt; the images of him marshalling players for a Liverpool corner with his bleeding head covered in stitches and then rising tallest to score the crucial equaliser in the dying minutes of extra time will forever be etched in fans’ memories and Anfield folklore.
Skrtel was stamped in his ribs by Chelsea’s Diego Costa during the sides’ showpiece game in the Capital One Cup (League Cup) semi-final in January 2015. That didn’t deter the defender from standing up to his opponent and carrying on in full flow thereafter.
In March 2015, the tall and imposing Slovakian landed on his head after an aerial clash with then Blackburn Rovers striker Rudy Gestede. When he got to his feet, Skrtel insisted on carrying on with the game. He was stretchered off though, as a case of precaution undertaken for head injuries but his thumbs-up to the fans even when he was being taken away, was just another example of his mentality.
Skrtel scored his first and last goals for Liverpool against Manchester City and you’d be forgiven for thinking they were his favourite opposition throughout his Reds career. He went on to score key goals against them during the title run-in of 2013-14 and in the 4-1 Liverpool rout of City in November 2015.
His leveller against Cardiff in the 2012 League Cup final ensured that the match remained within Liverpool’s grasp, eventually leading to their first trophy in 6 years. Skrtel notched up a double against Arsenal during 2013-14 and followed it up again with a thunderous header (despite his head being stapled with stitches) against the same opposition in the December of 2014 to earn Liverpool a last-gasp draw.
A deserving vote of thanks
No individual is perfect and Martin Skrtel was not an exception to this rule. His memorable Reds career had its share of lows and he may have overstayed his welcome at the club.
However, it must be remembered that Skrtel has given nothing short of his “all” for Liverpool and its fans, stood by the club during some of its most trying times and put his body on the line numerous times for the club.
In an era where football fans crave loyalty and where players disrespect the very clubs that have built their careers, Martin Skrtel’s conduct deserves more appreciation.
For all the service and commitment he has shown, this would be a very pertinent time for Liverpool fans to say ‘Thank you for the memories Martin, good luck for the future, and of course ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone!’