It's time for Martin Skrtel's spell at Anfield to reach its end.
Few players have fallen off in such a short amount of time than Skrtel. He was Liverpool's Player of the Season in 2012 and together with Daniel Agger made up one of the best centre-back combos in the Premier League.
When Brendan Rodgers was appointed manager, you were left wondering if Skrtel might have a tough time adjusting to a system where he would be asked to pass the ball out of the back much more frequently. Struggles in the early part of the season would be understandable, and the thinking was he would improve as he became more and more familiar with the tactics.
That adjustment simply hasn't happened. Skrtel has been a shell of his form from last year, and as a result, his future with the Reds is in doubt.
His agent has even gone on record to say that he and his client have expected much more out of the 2012-13 campaign (h/t Dominic King of the Daily Mail):
Skrtel's agent Karol Ksonto spoke to Russian media on Thursday saying: "He has not played as much as expected and we need to speak with the coach (Brendan Rodgers) of Liverpool. I think the situation will be clarified at the end of the season.
"As for the interest from other clubs, this is normal for a player of the level of Skrtel. I can only add that no formal proposals have been reported to us."
At 28 years old, Skrtel still has plenty of good years ahead of him. Should he maintain the form he's on, those good years aren't going to happen at Liverpool.
The time has come for the club to cash in on its Slovakian centre-back. Skrtel's value is much lower than it was this past summer, when the Reds could have likely gotten something in the £20-25 million range. They should still be able to ask for £10-15 million and easily get that.
If Liverpool keep him through the summer, it is threatening to watch his value sink even further. The Reds would also be keeping around a player who wouldn't be content to sit on the bench for another season.
You cannot blame the player, either. He's good enough to start for more than a few clubs in Europe's top leagues.
It would be one thing if Skrtel looked confident when he was on the pitch. One of the best traits he had was a willingness to get into tackles and fight for headers. That aggressiveness just doesn't look to be there this year. That swagger he had last season is completely gone.
In time, Skrtel could get used to passing out of the back, but at this stage, Liverpool shouldn't keep waiting for that moment to come—if he was six years younger—maybe. It makes much more sense for the club to pursue Ashley Williams, who is the same age as Skrtel but much more comfortable in Rodgers' system, or purchase a young ball-playing defender like Bruno Martins Indi for a relatively cheap fee.
Not to mention the club also has Martin Kelly and Sebastian Coates waiting in the wings. By the time next season starts, Kelly should be fully healed from his anterior cruciate ligament injury. Coates is 22 years old and needs first-team football very soon if he is to fulfill the promise he's shown at Liverpool and Nacional.
Skrtel has been a very loyal servant of Liverpool. Unfortunately, it's a relationship that appears to be untenable at the moment. Both sides would be much better off parting ways.