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Martin Skrtel On His Return To Anfield, LFC’s Development, And His Time Playing In The Sunday League

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Next month, when Martin Skrtel plays for Liverpool FC Legends, it will be his first time back at Anfield in six years.

The Slovakian is expected to play for Sir Kenny Dalglish’s team against Manchester United on September 24 in the Legends of the North match (kick-off 3pm BST).

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Centre-half Skrtel, who played as a striker for the local amateur team in Slovakia and made 320 appearances for the Reds between 2008 and 2016, retired from professional football earlier this year but has continued to play to keep fit.

Liverpoolfc.com caught up with the 37-year-old to discuss the upcoming legends contest, his retirement from the game, and the club’s transformation under Jürgen Klopp. Read on for the full interview…

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Martin, you’ll be back at Anfield next month for your first game with LFC Legends. How excited are you?

I’m very excited about it because it’s going to be the first time since I left Liverpool that I’m coming back to Anfield, and obviously to play again for Liverpool is going to be something special. It’s a legends game anyway but I can’t wait, to be honest.

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Given this will be your first visit to Anfield in a while, how much have you missed the place?

A lot. When I was still playing football, I was so busy and didn’t have the time to come back to visit a game or something. But obviously, I followed the club, followed the team, I was and still am watching every single game. When you spend almost nine years [there], the club, the team, and the city is still in your heart. I missed the club, I missed the place and now finally I’m coming back. I think we can say we are coming back to [our] second home because my son was born in Liverpool and we spent nine years there. It’s always going to be our second home.

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You only retired earlier this year, so are you backing yourself to be one of the sharpest?

I’m trying to be! I retired because I had quite a big problem with my back and I wasn’t able to train and play day by day. But obviously, it’s been more than two months and I was getting some treatment to sort my problems. At the moment, slowly, we are getting better and better every day. I started to play here [in Slovakia] something like Sunday league for the village I was born in. I played two games and it was OK. I try to keep myself fit and when I got the offer to play this legends game, I started to prepare myself a little bit more seriously because if you’re coming to Anfield, you want to be ready to play.

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How are you finding Sunday league action?

When I was leaving Slovakia when I was 19 years old before I went to Russia, I gave the word to one of my friends that one day when I retired from professional football, I will come back to this village. Since I retired, I was getting phone calls from him almost every day and he was asking me. I played two games and we will see how many more I will play. It’s fun. I’m 37 but I’m the second-youngest in my team, so it’s funny. Also, I changed position because at the moment I’m playing like a No.9 or a false nine. You’re now playing for fun mostly and playing with your friends, who I didn’t see for such a long time.

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Have you scored any goals from your advanced role?

I scored three goals! I’ve played two games and scored three goals.

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How have you found your first few months of retirement, just not having to train every day and things like that?

It was a strange feeling because obviously for more than 20 years I was playing professionally and I had my own routine. But this summer was special because I never had two months’ holiday. But it was also difficult because I had to retire. In my head, I wasn’t ready to retire because I wanted to continue playing but obviously, I couldn’t. So the first two, three weeks it was really difficult for me because I was still thinking that maybe I could try to do something else, try to do something more to continue. But I spoke with three or four doctors and many specialists, and every single one told me that I had to stop because my back is not ready to play or train every day. It was difficult but now I’m trying to enjoy myself, I try to enjoy my family and my son and find something to do. Obviously, when you’re just sitting in your house doing nothing, you start to be bored. But at the moment I’m OK and we will see what happens in the future.

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You mentioned that you still followed Liverpool after you left. What have you made of the club’s transformation under Klopp? You were there for the beginning of it…

As a fan, I can just be happy that we brought Jürgen into the club because since he came, I think everything changed. And also the trophies came – and this is most important. In the past years, Liverpool became what they deserved – to be one of the best teams and best clubs in the world. We have to say a big part of it is Jürgen, not only him but also the players, the club, the fans, and everybody. I’m just happy because I was there nine years and it wasn’t as successful as Liverpool is at the moment. But once a Red, always a Red. I’m just happy about the progress the club made in the past years.

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Did you know something special was brewing after Klopp joined in October 2015?

While he was at Borussia Dortmund, I was acquainted with him as a coach but not personally. He was successful both there and at Mainz, so we knew the team was getting a solid manager. He’s a major personality. He understands how to encourage and prepare players for the game by working with them as individuals. He, the players, the club, and the supporters all simply “came together.” Liverpool’s current success can be attributed to this.

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What do you make of this current squad? In your area, the team is so well-stocked with world-class center-halves…

If I had players like Virgil, Matip, Konate, Joe Gomez, and Phillips, I would love to be the manager. We have some of the best center-backs in the world if you look at our roster. If I were the manager and had players like them, I would be thrilled to be engaged.

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