Liverpool Should Take Napoli Transfer Bid for Martin Skrtel Even Without Cover
Liverpool are reported to have received a bid from Italian club Napoli to take central defender Martin Skrtel on a permanent deal, and despite the Reds' lack of depth in this department, it's an offer they should be looking at accepting.
BBC Sport's Ben Smith reports that last season's Serie A runners-up have made an offer of around £10 million for the Slovakian centre-back, but that the Reds are unwilling to accept the bid in the light of Seb Coates' long-term injury.
Even with this to consider, the chance to offload Skrtel for a relatively big fee is not one that the club should be passing up.
Skrtel in defence
Martin Skrtel has been more or less a first-choice centre-back since arriving at Anfield in 2008, partnering the likes of Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger along the way.
He's had full seasons of extremely good performances but has failed to replicate that form year after year, having a decidedly mixed 2012-13 and a downright poor 2010-11, with his best year of late coming between those two compaigns.
Last year he lost his place in the Reds' regular XI to veteran Jamie Carragher and only made four league appearances from mid-January until the end of the season.
Skrtel is relatively strong, firm in the tackle and committed, but he is not as aggressive or powerful as he looks to be, and his weaknesses are too often repeated to have hope of eradicating them at this stage of his career.
Frequent mistimed tackles, miscalculations of when to try and win the ball around the front of the attacker and a general weakness in the air—or at least, not being as domineering as he needs to be—all contribute to ensure that, while he can be, and has been, a good-to-very-good defender, Skrtel will never step up to be a great one.
Last chance to sell for serious cash?
The Reds signed the Slovak for around £6 million from Zenit St. Petersburg, and he has certainly proven worth the outlay, but Liverpool's transfer policy now is based around signing players at the lowest possible quality:cost ratio and selling them at their highest worth if possible.
Skrtel signed a new long-term contract last summer, so the Reds don't need to worry about losing him for nothing, but this is likely to be the final year in which they could command an eight-figure sum for him.
He will turn 29 years of age in December of this season, and, regardless of most players' actual talent, it is quite apparent that once they get to that figure, or 30, their value depreciates sharply.
Skrtel will not be a regular for the Reds this season, with Kolo Toure already partnering Agger, and the Reds will lose out far more by keeping him on the bench for another year than if they simply sold him now and brought in a new signing whenever they could manage it.
Keep him without playing and then try to sell in January or next summer, and Liverpool could find out they have lost up to 50 percent of his market value already—as well as paying around £1.5 million in wages to him in the meantime.
What about lack of cover?
So with Coates out for six months and Skrtel sold, how do Liverpool get by with only Toure and Agger?
It wouldn't be the first time they had to do so. Back in 2005-06, the Reds were unable to sign the Dane during the summer so opted to wait, seeing out the first half of the season with just Carragher and Sami Hyypia as senior centre-backs. Agger then duly arrived in the January transfer window to boost the depth and quality available in the position.
During that time before he arrived, young American defender Zak Whitbread provided the only cover for the experienced duo, featuring intermittently in the League Cup and on the bench in the Premier League as required.
While Toure and Agger might not be as good a partnership as Hyypia and Carragher in their prime, Andre Wisdom certainly provides a better level of quality and composure than Whitbread managed to achieve. Brendan Rodgers should have no qualms about putting the young former Under-21 defender into the team when needed, safe in the knowledge that he will be as cool and composed on the ball, and as strong defensively, as he showed last year at right-back.
Should Liverpool sell Skrtel if no replacement can be found?
Martin Kelly will also be ready to challenge for a defensive spot over the coming months once he has fully recovered from his long injury. Liverpool don't have Europe to worry about this year, meaning a very limited number of games that the Toure-Agger combination would have to get through without changes taking place.
It won't be an ideal situation for four or five months, but it would benefit the team far more to take the money on offer for Skrtel now and strengthen at the appropriate time, rather than keep a player they already know they need to sell on anyway. Even the perceived gamble of playing Wisdom at centre-back if he needs to cover for injuries will benefit the player for the long term, and he has already shown more than enough to suggest he's capable.
Rodgers has to take the gamble that the defence can cope with fewer numbers for this period, with the aim of offering greater quality to the team when the time is right—and already having the funds secured to do it with.
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