Forgotten Footballers (Where are they now?): Part 2 – Ryan Babel: The Next Thierry Henry


Ryan Babel was a promising 21 year old Dutch kid when he plied his trade to Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool from his boyhood club Ajax after agreeing a fee in the region of £11.5 million.

On 13th July 2007, he signed a five-year contract with the Merseysiders and was handed the number 19 jersey previously occupied by Spanish superstar Fernando Morientes.

Babel, only 21, already made more than 100 senior appearances for the Dutch giants where he lifted Eredivisie 2003-04 and also KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield, twice each.  He made his senior international debut on 26th March 2005, away against Romania where he came as a substitute of Arjen Robben and scored the 2nd goal of their 2-0 victory. He was also included in the Dutch squad for FIFA World Cup 2006 by the then manager Marco Van Basten at the age of 19, but he made only one substitute appearance (against Argentina) due to his knee injury. Van Basten was impressed by the youngster’s quality and has been quoted as saying Babel “has all the potential to become the next Thierry Henry”. Although, he was also selected by Bert van Marwijk in the squad for 2010 FIFA World Cup, he did not appear in any of the matches.

He continued his good run of form for Liverpool as well where he was mostly being used as an utility footballer by Rafael Benitez. He is often remembered for terrorizing the opponent defense with his great dribbling skills and ball control. Babel scored a number of crucial goals for the Reds, mostly in UEFA Champions League football, which earned him a cult success among the Liverpool fans.

But his career was marred by consecutive controversies while playing for Liverpool. The winger had a rift with the manager Rafa Benitez when he posted in his twitter page that he had been “dropped” for the game against Stoke City. The Club took disciplinary actions and fined him £120,000 for his misbehavior. He gained further infamy among the Liverpool fans when he was reportedly traveled to London with an intention to move to West Ham or Tottenham Hotspur on transfer deadline day, 31 August 2010. His game-time became limited by then and he was more involved in social media than football.

He also became the first professional footballer who was charged and fined by FA for improper conduct made on the social networking side (Twitter). The Dutch international was fined £10,000 for posting a mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt for Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat against United in the FA Cup in January, 2011.

The club was going through a turmoil back then and Babel’s activities were not helping them either. On 25 January 2011, it was confirmed that Babel had left Liverpool after three and half years making 146 appearances to join Bundesliga side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim for a reported fee of £8 million, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal. There he made 51 appearances and failed to make any impact. As a result, he was released by the club after 18 months.

He then joined back to his boyhood club Ajax where he mostly played as a substitute. Injury caused further troubles in his career. Although Ajax went on wining the Eredivisie 2012-13, he made only 16 appearances for the De Godenzonen in the league.

He refused to extend his contract with Ajax and joined Turkish side Kasimpasa and played for two seasons. He then moved to UAE Arabian Gulf League and played for Al Ain FC. There he was again involved in a conflict with the club’s hierarchy regarding his use of social media and was not fielded since Christmas 2015.

He was in further controversy last year when he made a sexist remark in response to a female Liverpool supporter who questioned him about his criticism of Rafael Benitez on twitter.

The saddest thing in life is a wasted talent and Ryan Babel is one of the biggest examples. He is only 29 but forgotten way too soon. His current career status remains unknown, while you can always find him in twitter, Instagram where he is proactive analyzing football and other things.

You may like to read Forgotten Footballers Part 1 : David Bentley.





Photo by helly – b