Martin Skrtel admits he considered leaving Liverpool during the summer, as he struggled to find a regular place in Brendan Rodgers’ side.
The Slovakian international was a Rafael Benitez signing in January 2008, when the Spanish coach paid £6.5million to take him from Zenit St Petersburg. He has since gone on to make over 170 appearances in the Premier League, including every one of the 2010-11 campaign, but he dipped in and out of favour under Rodgers last term.
Skrtel started 23 times in the league last season, with another two appearances coming from the bench, with a further seven outings in the UEFA Europa League. With Benitez reportedly keen to take him to Napoli during the transfer window last summer, and his former club also showing an interest, the 29-year-old admits he considered leaving Anfield.
However, the centre-half decided to knuckle down and prove his importance to the Reds, and this has been rewarded with more game time this time round. He has already made 25 appearances in all competitions with 13 league games left to play and the FA Cup still on the agenda, and he believes this has vindicated his decision to remain on Merseyside.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about leaving,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “It wasn’t easy after last season. I was on the bench in the second part of the season, and that was something new. But it is not easy to leave a club like Liverpool because they are still one of the best clubs in the world. After six years here, it was not easy to say ‘okay, I’m leaving’.
“Before this season started, I just said to myself ‘I will fight and work very hard to try to show people I am able to play and start the games’. I tried to work very hard in training every day and when I got a chance to play, I tried to do my best to help the team. I am just so glad and so happy that I stayed. I just wanted to prove to people I am able to play for this club.”
Skrtel was particularly impressive on Saturday afternoon, when he scored twice in the opening 10 minutes to send Liverpool on their way to a memorable 5-1 win over Arsenal at Anfield. This result, coupled with Everton’s loss at Tottenham Hotspur, has consolidated their place in the top-four, three points clear of the White Hart Lane club.
Whilst Rodgers insists a top-four finish, and the opportunity to compete in the UEFA Champions League, is his priority this season. However, if the Reds can overcome bottom-placed Fulham in the capital on Wednesday evening, they could be just four points off the lead, sparking hope amongst fans of a first league title since 1990.