Liverpool's first choice defensive pairing during the summer of 2013 looked like Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Daniel Agger, or maybe Toby Alderweireld in there somewhere with Dejan Lovren, and then Kolo Toure could spell them at times if needed. Martin Skrtel would be lucky to play if he wasn't sold, and he looked to slip further down the pecking order when the club brought in Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori (though not an immediate challenge for Skrtel's spot) in the final days of the window.
Then Kolo Toure got hurt late in the League Cup win over Notts County, forcing Skrtel into a start alongside Agger against United, with Sakho not yet settled at his new club. Then Skrtel completely dominated United and went on to finish second on the season in appearances, playing some of the most consistent defense all season while notching seven goals--to go with four at the wrong end--in his most successful Liverpool season to date. And for the Slovakian, it all goes back to maintaining focus despite talk of an exit and his breakthrough in the 1-0 win at Anfield:
"It was first due to performances in training, and then matches. This season there was a watershed match with Manchester United at Anfield, where I was declared man of the match - and after that, I played in all the matches, nearly 40 games. Only the goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, played more [in the league]. I also scored seven goals, which is the highest among the defenders in the league, so I think that also helped.
"(The Champions League) is the best competition in the world, everyone wants to play in it. I had the opportunity to sample the atmosphere of it during my early years in Liverpool and I'm glad I'll now be able to experience it again."
He's been immune from transfer talk this summer, with Agger taking most of the headlines regarding a potential exit, and his words here seem to indicate that he expects to be around as Liverpool make their Champions League return during the coming season. If he manages to replicate his form from the season gone by--which proved hard to do after his Player of the Year campaign in 2011-2012--that can only be a good thing regardless of who else Liverpool might bring in this summer