It’s been a long, dragged out deal, but in the end the result has been the one most have expected for the past month. Today, Fenerbahce have officially announced the signing of Martin Skrtel from Liverpool in a £5.5M deal that sees the 31-year-old heading to Turkey for the twilight of his career.
Skrtel was heavily linked with Fenerbahce from the moment the 2015-16 season ended, but with the player off captaining Slovakia at the Euros and his agent insisting they were open to any and all offers, the deal took some time to get wrapped up. Along the way we got Besiktas, Wolfsburg, Roma, the Chinese Super League.
All were meant to be frontrunners at one time or another, but only Fenerbahce were there all along, with a £5.5M offer Liverpool accepted back at the start of June and the promise of Champions League football for the veteran centre half who had seen himself drop to fourth on Liverpool’s defensive depth chart.
It seems a positive move for all involved. Skrtel has been a loyal servant at Anfield, but injury and poor form had seen him fall solidly behind Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho last season, and by the end of it even Kolo Toure was ahead of him on the depth chart. The arrival of Joel Matip only seemed to seal his fate.
For Fenerbahce, meanwhile, there was a need to replace the departing Bruno Alves, the 34-year-old Portuguese centre half who after three seasons in Turkey headed to newly promoted Serie A side Cagliari on a free transfer this summer. Skrtel, the same age as Alves was when he arrived in Turkey, now replaces him.
Skrtel joined Liverpool in January of 2008 from Zenit Saint Petersburg in a £6.5M deal and spent eight and a half seasons at Anfield. All told, the defensive hard man from Handlová played 319 games for the Reds and added 18 goals, mostly from corners and set pieces and many of them of the memorable variety.
From title challenges in 2009 and 2014 through to the dark days of Roy Hodgson and post-Suarez stumbles, Skrtel was a constant through it all with his last ditch tackles, his effective if occasionally worrying grappling, and his frequent head bandages. Whatever else, we’ll always have those head bandages.