This season, Skrtel has made the headlines for negative reasons

Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea (right) reacts after a challenge from Liverpool's Martin Skrtel during the English Premier League match at An?eld, Liverpool. Skrtel was slapped with a three-match ban for the offence.-AP Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea (right) reacts after a challenge from Liverpool's Martin Skrtel during the English Premier League match at An?eld, Liverpool. Skrtel was slapped with a three-match ban for the offence.

In February 2012, Skrtel got his hands on some long-awaited silverware as he scored against Cardiff City in the League Cup final as Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. He was subsequently named Liverpool’s Player of the Season. By Matthew Smith.

For seven years, Martin Skrtel has been synonymous with the term ‘hard man’.

In an age where there is concern over the physical future of the game, the Slovak at times appears to be on a one-man mission to set things right in his eyes.

With over 200 league appearances for one of the Premier League’s biggest names and having played for his country at their first ever World Cup, it is easy to forget that Skrtel has only just turned 30.

Beginning his career at Trencin in his homeland, he soon moved to Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg, making his debut for them in July 2004. Surrounded by fellow Slovaks in the team, Skrtel felt right at home and his 113 appearances for Zenit included delivering the Russian Premier League title in 2007, causing Liverpool to take a GBP6.5million punt on him in the January transfer window in 2008.

On completion of the deal, then Reds manager Rafael Benitez said: “He is aggressive, quick, is good in the air and I think he’s a very good player for the future and also for the present. He is very competitive but his mentality for me is very good.”

Assigned the number 37 shirt, Skrtel endured a somewhat rocky start to life at Anfield. In only his second game against non-league Havant & Waterlooville, he gave away the corner from which the minnows scored the opener. He was also involved in failing to clear a goalmouth scramble which saw Liverpool go 2-1 down before eventually winning 5-2.

Skrtel soon began to win round the doubters though, putting in Man of the Match displays against Chelsea and in his first ever Merseyside derby — a 1-0 win at home over Everton.

Displacing Daniel Agger to the bench the following season and forming a strong partnership with Jamie Carragher at the heart of Liverpool’s back four, Skrtel was soon a Premier League regular as Liverpool finished second in his first full year in England.

The 2010/11 campaign was one of contrasts for Skrtel. On one hand, he became undroppable, playing every minute of every league game for the club, as well as captaining Liverpool in the Europa League on his 26th birthday.

On the other hand, Liverpool finished a disappointing sixth, having just missed out on the title the year before, and Skrtel managed an unusual and unwanted feat, scoring at both ends in a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham .

In February 2012, Skrtel got his hands on some long-awaited silverware as he scored against Cardiff City in the League Cup final as Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. He was subsequently named Liverpool’s Player of the Season, with team-mate Jose Enrique describing Skrtel’s partnership with Agger as “the best defensive partnership in the Premier League.”

The following season began rather less auspiciously for Skrtel, giving away a penalty in a 3–0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on the first day of the 2012/13 season. A poor performance in Liverpool’s embarrassing 3-2 defeat to third-tier Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup saw him dropped in January, only making four subsequent league appearances that season.

He stayed loyal to the Reds however, with the club rejecting a GBP10m bid from Benitez’s new club Napoli for his services and Skrtel was very nearly rewarded with the league title.

On February 8 2014, Skrtel scored twice in the first 10 minutes against Arsenal to help Liverpool to a remarkable 5-1 win. Then in April, he scored Liverpool’s second goal in a 3-2 win against Manchester City which looked to have won the title for the Reds but ultimately it ended up with City.

This season, Skrtel has made the headlines for more negative reasons and was recently hit with a three-match ban for stamping on Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, despite claiming it was accidental.

When given his punishment by a three-man panel, Skrtel published an image on Instagram of three clowns. He later claimed this was an accident.

His international career has been no less eventful. Selected in Slovakia’s squad for the 2010 World Cup — their first as an independent nation — he played in the side’s biggest ever result, a 3-2 victory over reigning champions Italy which secured Slovakia a surprise last-16 place before they lost to the Netherlands.

Loved by his fans, loathed by his opponents, Skrtel divides opinions but certainly makes his presence known.

Skrtel married Barbora Lovasova in 2012. FACTFILE Name: Martin Skrtel Position: Defender Club: Liverpool D.O.B: 15/12/1984 Slovakia caps: 72 International goals: 5

Moment to remember: Reaching the 2010 World Cup knockout stage after Slovakia stunned Italy 3-2.

Moment to forget:Being responsible for two goals conceded in his second game for Liverpool against minnows Havant & Waterlooville.

© PA Sport