LIVERPOOL are set to break their transfer record for a defender by paying £6.5m for Slovak international centre back Martin Skrtel.
The Zenit St Petersburg star arrived on Merseyside last night ahead of a medical today and the club are confident the deal will be finalised within the next 48 hours.
Chief executive Rick Parry thrashed out a deal with Zenit officials during talks in Russia at the weekend.
Skrtel is rated as one of the most promising defenders in European football and Liverpool have had to beat off competition from some of the continent's top clubs to set up the deal.
Should the transfer go through as expected it will mark the end of Rafa Benitez's search for a new centre-half that began with the ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Gabriel Heinze and which became increasingly urgent in recent weeks following injuries to both Daniel Agger and Sami Hyypia.
Skrtel is a 23-year-old full Slovak international with 15 caps to his name.
He joined Zenit in 2004 and has gone on to make more than 100 appearances in the Russian league.
Standing 6 ft 4 ins tall, Skrtel has a reputation as a no-nonsense defender who does not shy away from the physical side of the game.
With Agger – who was named Denmark's player of the year at the weekend – still not ready to make his return to first team action after suffering a metatarsal injury last September, Benitez has been short of cover at centre back for several months.
That situation worsened recently when Hyypia picked up an ankle injury at Derby County on Boxing Day, leaving Benitez with only Alvaro Arbeloa, a full-back, and teenager Jack Hobbs as his options to partner Jamie Carragher in the centre of defence.
Benitez will be keen to see the deal for Skrtel tied up as quickly as possible so he can be added to the Liverpool squad, possibly even in time for the trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Martin Skrtel facts >>>
Born: December 15, 1984 in Handlova, Slovakia
Weight: 12st 11lbs
Club: Zenit St Petersburg
Debut: July 31, 2004
Contract expiry: 31.12.2008
Appearances/goals: 113 /5
International appearances/goals: 15 /1
Honours: Russian Premier League 2007, Slovakian youth league 2001
Former clubs: FC Previdza, FC Trencin.
FC Zenit Martin Skrtel ranks second in the list of the best football players named by Slovak Football Union and newspaper “Pravda”, top ten also includes FC Zenit keeper Kamil Contofalsky.
Martin Skrtel was born in Handlova, Slovakia on 15 December 1984.
He is FC Previdza school graduate. Played for Slovakian teams FC Previdza and FC Trencin.
From 2004 Martin’ been playing for FC Zenit. He made his debut in the Russian Cup match on 31 July, 2004 against FC Irtysh.
Capped for the Slovak youth national team and then Slovak A-team. As well as Kamil Contofalsky, Martin faced his teammates from FC Zenit during the World Cup 2006 preliminary fixture Russia vs Slovakia, which ended with the victory of the latter.
2001 - youth champion of Slovakia
Get to know more
• Martin could have become a hockey player but he has chosen football, inspired by his father’s football career
• Martin claims that the presence of Slovak and Czech players was very important for him to accustom himself to the new team
• Martin has tried several positions on the pitch: midfielder, attacker and chose defense aged 16
Played in official matches for Zenit - 113, goals scored - 5. Played for Zenit in Russian Championship - 74, goals scored - 3. Played for second team - 4.
Age 23 years
Height 191 cm
Weight 81 kg
On contract till 31.12.2008
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