"Everyone to Napoli" has been an ongoing joke around these parts this summer, stemming from the seemingly ridiculous assumption that every out-of-sorts player of a certain era in the Liverpool squad would obviously be on his way to Italy because of the managerial magnetism of one Rafa Benitez.
Like most attempts at humour borne of fear and discomfort, the idea of an exodus of players to Italy went from mildly amusing to soberingly real once Pepe Reina departed for a year-long loan spell with the Neapolitans. Martin Skrtel has been the subject of on again, off again Napoli rumours ever since Rafa's appointment, and it emerged today that the defender was the star of a £10 million bid by the Italian club that was summarily rejected by Liverpool.
The news rounds out an odd week for Skrtel where so many smaller factors conspired to suggest he was definitely on his way out. A suspicious injury that kept him out of both an ill-timed international friendly and Liverpool's season opening win over Stoke City coupled with the vow to fight for a place in the lineup that usually signals an imminent departure are suddenly moot.
The easiest explanation is that this all hinges on Sebastian Coates' ACL injury that will see the Uruguayan sidelined for approximately forever. Despite the fact that Coates rarely factors into any of Brendan Rodgers' plans, the loss of a fifth choice centre-back still represents a loss of depth, even if it's depth you were never planning on using. Skrtel starts over Coates on Rodgers' team any day of the week, and with Coates out it's simply impossible for the club to let Skrtel go only to leave Andre Wisdom and potentially (but probably not) Martin Kelly as the next choices should something unexpected — knock on wood — happen to befall Daniel Agger or Kolo Toure.
Reinforcement in central defense has been on many wish lists for the last few months, and even prior to Coates' injury it seemed that Liverpool had stopped shopping, or at least put players like Kyriakos Papadopoulos temporarily back on the shelf to think about some more. At this stage it looks more and more unlikely that new blood will be brought in, and if Skrtel plays his cards right in the cup ties he's sure to be involved in, he may yet have a fighting chance this season.