Birthdate: 15 December 1984
Birthplace: Handlova, Slovakia
Other clubs: Trencin (2001-04), Zenit St Petersburg (2004-08)
Bought from: Zenit St Petersburg
Signed for LFC: £6.5m, 11.01.2008
International debut: 09.07.2004 vs. Japan
International caps: 81/5 - 04.06.2016
Liverpool debut: 21.01.2008
Last appearance: 15.05.2016
Debut goal: 21.11.2009
Last goal: 21.11.2015
Contract expiry: 2014 (signed August 2010)
Win ratio: 49.06% W: 157 D: 77 L: 86
Honours: League Cup 2012
LFC league games/goals: 242 / 16
Total LFC games/goals: 320 / 18
Skrtel's tough tackling, 'no-nonsense' approach and never-say-die attitude quickly brought him a reputation as a cult figure at Anfield. When he joined Liverpool he became the most expensive defender in Liverpool's history despite being a relative unknown outside native Slovakia and Russia where he won the Russian Championship with Zenit St Petersburg in 2007. Skrtel made an unimpressive start to his Liverpool career, coming on as a rather nervous-looking substitute for the last 20 minutes against Aston Villa at Anfield and then being credited with an own-goal in the FA Cup defeat of non-League Havant & Waterlooville five days later. However, he played in 18 of the remaining 23 first-team matches of the season and won over the supporters who had been worried at the anxiety he showed in his early performances. The fans were impressed and even applied quotes formerly only reserved for Chuck Norris to describe him such as: "There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Martin Skrtel allows to live," "Martin Skrtel has never blinked in his entire life. Never" and "Martin Skrtel can piss into gale force winds."
A knee injury suffered against Manchester City on 5 October 2008 disrupted Skrtel's first full season at Liverpool and kept him on the sidelines for two months. When Skrtel was passed fit again he showed his quality and played the majority of Liverpool's games in the second half of the season. Injury restricted Skrtel to appearing in just 29 of Liverpool's 56 competitive matches during the 2009/10 season. He broke the metatarsal in his right foot while playing in the 3–1 victory over Unirea Urziceni in Romania on 25 February 2010. After being in the squad for most of the early-season fixtures, this was a big blow for the uncompromising defender, who must have wondered if he would recover in time to represent his country at the World Cup finals in South Africa. To the surprise of many, Slovakia qualified for the knock-out stage of the tournament, mainly because of a 3-2 victory over defending champions Italy in the final group match. Skrtel played from the start and to the finish of all four of his country's games in South Africa. In playing in every Premier League match for the first time in 2010/11, Skrtel doubled his League appearances from the previous season and took his total of first-team appearances past the century mark. Skrtel added two goals, opening the scoring in the away matches at Tottenham and West Bromwich but both matches were eventually lost by the same score, 2-1. However, Skrtel was still lacking finesse, allowing himself to concede free-kicks in dangerous areas with his roughhouse rugby-style tackling.
Skrtel played in nearly 90% of Liverpool's first-team matches in 2011/12 and had his best season so far, creating a formidable pairing with Daniel Agger in the centre of defence. He got on the scoresheet four times and had clearly refined the rough edges to his game. Two days after the 2012/13 Premier League season started, Skrtel signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool, declaring: "I have been here almost four and a half years and I have enjoyed that time here - myself and also my family. So there were no questions about whether to stay or to leave."
The percentage of first-team matches the Slovakian appeared in dropped from nearly ninety to just over sixty in 2012/13. He seemed to suffer something of a crisis in confidence, particularly after a dreadful error gifted an equalising goal to Manchester City's Carlos Tevez in the first home Premier League match of the season in August. It took time for his form to recover after that but he took his total of Liverpool appearances to two hundred when he played against Manchester United at Old Trafford in January. Skrtel, who had opened the scoring in that early-season match against Manchester City, added just one more goal, a fierce volley against Fulham at Anfield in December.
Skrtel played in all but four of Liverpool's competitive matches in 2013/14 and the fact that his manager selected him to start in 36 Premier League matches proved that he was still one of the first names on the team-sheet, even if his central defensive partner often changed. Yet Skrtel still had a mixed season. Seven goals was easily his best total during his six full seasons as a Liverpool player. On the debit side, however, four own goals saw him closing in with seven to Jamie Carragher's unwanted club record of eight. The defensive side of Skrtel's game also came under intense scrutiny for the number of penalties he might have given away under stronger referees. He also showed his volleyball skills, again without punishment from an official, in the closing moments of the crucial Anfield match against Manchester City in April.
Skrtel's seventh full season as a Liverpool player saw him pass the two hundred mark in Premier League matches and by the end of the 2014/15 season he was only a few matches short of three hundred Liverpool matches in all competitions. Although he only scored once, a thumping late header into the Kop goal to earn a point against Arsenal shortly before Christmas, the Slovakian defender seemed less clumsy in his own penalty-area. No own-goals against his name was certainly an improvement from the previous season when he had put the ball into his own net four times! In the summer of 2015 he agreed a new contract at the club, having initially said that the offer he had was unacceptable due to it being of the type usually offered to those players who are older or prone to injuries.