Would £16m for Martin Skrtel Be Too Good for Liverpool to Turn Down?

Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 16:  Liverpool player Martin Skrtel in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is again linked with a return to Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg, in today's Mirror newspaper.

Having fallen out of favour last season under Brendan Rodgers, the defender was widely expected to leave in the summer.

But Liverpool, according to a report from BBC Sport, turned down a £10 million deal from Napoli, where the Slovakian would have been reunited with former boss Rafa Benitez. Today's report in The Mirror claim the Russian side are willing to bid £16 million.

This raises a couple of interesting questions. First, would such an offer be too good to turn down? And second, is Skrtel in Rodgers long-term plans following his six appearances this season?

It's fair to say that with the arrivals of Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori this summer, most of us expected Skrtel to leave the club.

Especially considering that, following the FA Cup defeat to Oldham in January, he had started just two games—the defeat to Zenit in the Europa League and the defeat at Southampton in the Premier League.

He was clearly out of favour and Rodgers was well overstocked at centre-back, with Daniel Agger seemingly first choice having been given the vice-captaincy this summer.

Add in the trio of Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom, Liverpool have eight centre-backs in their first-team squad.

It's likely that had Coates not suffered a long-term injury in preseason, he would have at the least been loaned out, while Wisdom is likely to head out on loan to get experience in his more natural position too at some stage this season.

Nonetheless, the three new signings and Agger meant Skrtel was fifth choice. Liverpool turning down Napoli's bid seemed strange.

Then came Skrtel's big chance, the home match with Man United. Sakho and Ilori weren't actually signed yet, Toure was injured and so the duo of Agger and Skrtel lined up alongside each other again.

The 28-year-old took his chance, dominating against Robin van Persie, winning all his aerial duels and recalling memories of the 2007 Champions League semi-final first leg when Skrtel took care of then-Liverpool nemesis Didier Drogba. In the process, he gave Brendan Rogers a selection headache.

Whether Rodgers had intended to let Skrtel go in the two days of the window that remained after the United match, nobody knows. Did Skrtel's performance force Rodgers into a rethink?

Since then, the Slovak has started all of the Reds' Premier League games, most recently as the central defender of the new three-at-the-back system.

Last season the general notion about Skrtel was that he wasn't able to play the possession football and high defensive line that Rodgers desires. Now though, his central role allows the more comfortable ball-playing defenders of Sakho and Toure to do that work, while Liverpool's possession game has also changed to a more counter-attacking style.

Another critique was his lack of leadership and communication from defence, but again, Toure appears to have brought this to the side in abundance.

The use of Skrtel alongside Toure and Sakho means there has been no place for Agger, and you do wonder if Rodgers will be tempted to bring the Dane back in, possibly at the expense of Skrtel.

For now though, Skrtel is there firmly on merit and seems to have recaptured his form after the mistake against Man City in the first home game of last season seemed to cause him a crisis of confidence.

Perhaps he is one of the players to have benefitted from Dr. Steve Peters, the sports psychologist at the club. From the outside, it would appear that way.

Skrtel's future will depend largely on two things, one that he can affect and one that he cannot; whether Brendan Rodgers wishes to stick with three at the back, and whether he himself can use the competition in the squad to ensure he maintains his standards.

Selling Skrtel would make financial and business sense (yes, I hate that I've written that too), we have the players already signed to ensure his place in the squad isn't short. This would in all likelihood be the maximum value Liverpool could recoup for the player, and those funds could then be invested in other areas of the squad.

Not an easy decision for Rodgers either way.


Would you keep Skrtel, or, given the abundance of quality centre-backs in the squad, would £16m be an offer too good to turn down?