- LocationHandlova, Slovakia
- Squad Number37
Martin Skrtel is regarded as one of the best centre-backs in Europe.
He arrived at Anfield in January 2008 with a reputation for being a no-nonsense defender – and he hasn’t disappointed.
At the end of 2011-12 Skrtel was voted Liverpool’s Player of the Season by fans on the official website.
The 6ft 4 star began his career with FC Previdza after choosing football over hockey. From there he enjoyed a spell with FC Trencin before moving to the Russian Premier League with FC Zenit in 2004.
Skrtel’s performances during 113 games in Russia led to international recognition and interest from a host of European clubs including Valencia, Everton and Spurs.
But it was the Reds who eventually clinched his signature and the Slovak made his debut as a second-half sub against Aston Villa on January 21, 2008.
Skrtel’s arrival followed a long search by Rafael Benitez for defensive cover, with the No.37 initially having to fight with Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Daniel Agger for a place in defence.
Over the next few years he would be a solid presence at the back, usually alongside the more senior Carragher.
On the international front he was part of Slovakia’s first ever World Cup in South Africa, featuring in every game before a last 16 exit to Dirk Kuyt’s Holland.
Skrtel returned to Merseyside and it was now that his Anfield career would really flourish.
The centre-back played every minute of every league game in 2010-11, and his performances alongside new regular partner Agger in 2011-12 ensured he was a comfortable winner when it came to the club’s end of season poll.
It was also the campaign when Skrtel collected his first Anfield medal, and he was a scorer at Wembley as Liverpool beat Cardiff City to lift the Carling Cup.
The Slovakian extended his stay at Anfield by agreeing a long-term deal in August 2012 and racked up his 200th appearance for the club later that season when he played against Manchester United on January 13, 2013.
When Carragher reclaimed his place for the final months before his retirement, it was Skrtel who dropped to the bench. In response, though, the international captain fought back and was reinstated three games into the new season.
As injuries mounted up around him, the No.37 was a constant presence in Brendan Rodgers’ defence; plus, at the other end of the field, he notched twice in one match for the first time as Arsenal were thrashed 5-1 in February 2014.
Since the retirement of Carragher and the departure of Agger, Skrtel has become Liverpool’s senior defensive man, showing impressive leadership qualities as he’s marshalled a new-look backline.
His importance to Rodgers was highlighted when, in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, he was handed the captain’s armband for the Champions League tie with Real Madrid.
And Skrtel moved to prolong his stay with the Reds even further by putting pen to paper on a new contract extension ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.