That Martin Skrtel would sign a new deal for a time seemed an inevitability. He wanted to stay and, having been a mainstay at the club and perhaps the only reliable defensive presence under Brendan Rodgers, the club clearly wanted to keep him around. Then, he didn’t sign. And as the weeks and months passed he continued to not sign. Now, it looks as though he may head into next season without a new deal in place.
"I think a contract like this is offered to players who are much older than me or to players who have had some health complications," said the Slovak defender of the contract Liverpool have offered him and which he has rejected out of hand. "I feel good and not so old as to sign a contract like this, and my health is very good. The contract offered is unacceptable for a player in my position and this is the reason why I could not sign it."
The contract Skrtel turned down has been widely rumoured to have been much of his pay tied to an appearance clause. If he continues to start every week, Liverpool will continue to pay him wages similar to the £65k he is reportedly currently on. If he doesn’t start—whether through injury or otherwise—he would get paid a fraction of his current wages. No matter what one thinks of Skrtel as a player, it’s easy to understand his issue.
At 30 years of age, he’s hardly old for a centre half, and should have at least three seasons of football left at his current level. If he was injury prone, one could understand such clauses. If the club were even to structure it such that Skrtel would get paid less if he suddenly became injury prone and often was unavailable, it might seem a touch odd in the circumstance but likely would not prove an insurmountable obstacle to his signing.
That the deal is tied to minutes rather than fitness, though, sends a clear signal to the defender that the club will seek to replace him—if not this summer than in the next. And while that is obviously the club’s prerogative, it isn’t on Skrtel to help them lay the path for his own departure. Or for a situation where he can be transitioned to third or fourth option while having little leverage to force a move away in search of playing time.
Skrtel was the club’s best defender last season. The year before, he was a passable defensive presence in a side where passable was about as good as it got—and as good as it probably could get given the tactical approach—while adding seven goals to Liverpool’s record-setting attack. The club currently have no better option than him, and given their lack of Champions League football, would struggle to bring in a clearly better player.
All of which makes it a touch odd the club are asking Skrtel to sign a deal making it easier to push him into a substitute role while decreasing any incentive on the club’s part to find him a new home should he lose his place as Liverpool’s most established centre half. It’s a deal a player in Skrtel’s position would be insane to take, and no matter one’s option of him, that makes it a very strange offer for the club to have made.