Martin Skrtel has become the first Liverpool player to speak publicly about what he has called the "sacking" of Rafael Benitez as manager, declaring that the players had expected him to part company with the club after their disappointing Premier League season.
Skrtel, one of the few established names in the Slovakia side who were stunned by New Zealand's 93rd-minute equaliser in Rustenburg on Tuesday, revealed that Benitez texted each of his players individually, in Skrtel's case thanking him for his contribution and wishing him the best for the future. "I texted him back to say 'thank you boss and good luck for you'," said Skrtel. But he accepts that the Liverpool board wanted Benitez out and views the £6m compensation deal as a dismissal, rather than a compromise arrangement.
"The management needed to make some changes and they sacked Rafa, and what can we do?" the 25-year-old said. "Nothing. We are only players and we have to wait for the new management."
Skrtel is unsure whether Benitez's departure – with Roy Hodgson, who has been contacted by Liverpool, the favourite to replace him – will spark an exodus. "I don't know. Rafa brought me to the club and I'm glad about that and I thank him for that. Now we have to wait for the new management. We will try to do better than this season."
First, there is the issue of today's encounter with Paraguay, buoyed by the draw with Italy and aware that just a point against Vladimir Weiss's side could see them in striking distance of a last-16 game, possibly against Holland.
Weiss, who has described the draw against the Kiwis as a "national disaster", kept journalists behind barbed wire at their training base to avoid any distractions – in contrast to the animated conversations with the press he held before the New Zealand game.
Slovakia's contributions to mankind's development include the first operational parachute and the manager's son and namesake, one of the two stand-out players against the All Whites, will be instrumental as the team try to avoid dropping out at the first stage in their first finals.
"It's the worst thing that can happen to you: conceding in the last second of a game," said Weiss Jnr. "For all of us it's something very sad but we've got to keep our heads up.
"It's the first time in the finals and for a little country like Slovakia that's something special. I just hope we'll do better than just the group."Reuse content