MARTIN SKRTEL says 2010/11 was the best season of his career – and believes he’s proved the doubters wrong who claimed he didn’t have the quality to play for Liverpool.
The Slovakian, who played in every minute of every Premier League game last season, said: “It’s probably been my best season, because I have played every single game – but it would have been better if the results had been better.
“When I came here, a lot of people talked about the way I play, and many said I didn’t have the quality to play for Liverpool.
“Many of them were from Slovakia, and I was determined to prove them wrong.
“I was surprised, because I think they should be proud of me as a Slovakian player who is playing for a big club. But that’s Slovakia – a lot of people are jealous, and that’s not good.”
Though it has largely been a frustrating campaign at Anfield, Skrtel believes the arrival of Kenny Dalglish as manager in January has helped settle the club.
He added: “In his first meeting with the team Kenny said to us that we had to trust him and trust ourselves.
“He gave us confidence. He is a great man, a nice person, who tries to talk to us all the time.”
Skrtel joined the Reds from Russian side Zenit St Petersburg in a £6.5m deal in January 2008 but, by his own admission, endured a difficult start to his time on Merseyside.
After a knee injury disrupted his 2008-09 season, and a broken metatarsal brought a premature end to the following campaign, the Handlová-born defender has established himself.
“Rafa Benitez helped me, because he gave me a chance and he also tried to help me every day in training.
“Sami Hyypia was a great player and also a nice person. He always tried to talk to me and explain things that I could change on the pitch.
“But it wasn’t just him. Players like him, Carra, Daniel Agger, Steve, Fernando, Xabi Alonso... I can say every single player from the squad. I could watch them every day in training, and I could learn from them.”
The arrival of strikers Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll on a sensational January transfer deadline day could well be key to the club’s future.
Carroll may be yet to show the form which persuaded Dalglish to spend £35m on him, but Suarez has lit up Anfield.
And Skrtel believes the pair can strike up a partnership to alarm Premier League defences next term.
“They are both great players, and totally different,” added Skrtel. “I think they can form a great partnership.
“They’ve shown their ability, and I think and believe they will show their best next season.
“It is very difficult playing against them even in training. For me as a defender, I’m happy they are here in our team.”
Meanwhile Aston Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister hopes the arrival of several quality signings this summer will help convince Liverpool target Ashley Young to remain at Villa Park
Young, who has 12 months remaining of his current contract, has been consistently inked with a move to the Reds.
The 25-year-old has said he will discuss his situation over the coming weeks, with Manchester United also said to be keen.