An Anfield man who is very misunderstood.
Liverpoolfc.tv commentator John Bradley said it best when he referred to Ryan Babel as misunderstood. The number 19, who has failed to reach his potential, has been the talking point of Liverpool for many reasons; some of which are his extracurricular activities.
The 23-year-old fancies himself as a bit of a rapper. While he is no Tupac, he is clearly talented and enjoys doing it, but that’s as far as it goes. Ryan will tell you himself that ‘rapping is his hobby’, so although many believe it interferes with his football, he has no intention of becoming the next 50cent. In fact, when asked what he would be doing had he not become a footballer, he answered that he would have gone into athletics. Ryan, then, clearly has the physical ability to become very good footballer.
If you was to create the perfect player in fifa10 or pro evo, he would have the same attributes as the Dutchman – strength, pace, ability, agility, skill and a cannon of a shot. Then why is it that a player with so much raw talent has yet to fulfil his potential at 23?
You can put it down to him not having a footballing brain, or being lazy, but we have all seen the ability that Ryan has and many of us have witnessed the potential he has locked away inside of him. So if he isn’t to blame, who is?
Rafa Benitez, although a great tactician was not a man manager. Many players crave a father figure, like Gerard Houllier was. Instead, Rafa was very cold and analytical in his approach; perhaps too analytical. They say that Rafa was a perfectionist and would spend countless hours focusing on the goal that was conceded rather than the 5 that were scored. So if a player was to perform well, I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager was to pick apart their performance until all that’s left was self-doubt.
I refuse to believe it is sheer coincidence that Riera, Benyoun and Babel all had something to say about the former Liverpool manager. While Benayoun may have done well to curb his frustrations, Ryan Babel didn’t. We all know what happened with the twitter-gate saga and the chain of events that ensued afterwards. Will he be sold, won’t he? Will he ever play again, bla bla bla.
Honestly, the whole twitter incident was immature on Ryan’s part, but you can understand his frustration. I would rather have a player who was frustrated at his lack of chances, than have a player who was content to sit on the bench and not be bothered by it.
With all the off-field controversies surrounding the attacker, it was his on-the -pitch exploits that caused the most frustration for both player and fan alike. On the fans side, you have the argument that Babel never took his chances and could go from being amazing in one game, to shocking in the next. But from the players point of view you can fully understand why he never really hit top gear.
Babel, who managed 10 goals and 3 assists in his first season, was never really given a chance under Rafa as the Dutchman was reduced to no more than a string of substitute appearances. There are some who would argue otherwise, but had Babel been given the same run as Lucas or Insua, I am sure we would have seen a different side to him by now – a side that would have seen him take part in the World Cup rather than just watching it from the sidelines. His confidence is clearly low. So again, what is the answer?
Simply put; Roy Hodgson.
The Croydon-boy has managed a host of clubs and has managed to get the best out of every player who has played for him. The prime example being Bobby Zamora. Had you said that Zamora would be a 20+ goal scorer and contender for an England place, 3 or 4 years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room. However, under Hodgson the striker really flourished as he managed to score 21 goals in 44 appearances as well as contributing over 6 assists.
Let’s compare the two players shall we. Actually, let’s not. It is clear to anybody with half a footballing brain that Babel has the potential to be a much better player than Zomora. It’s tapping into that potential that Roy needs to do; and indeed, will do.
The transition into English football was clearly a difficult one for Babel. For Ajax, he was a winger. Much like a striker, his duties were to attack, attack and attack, thus bringing the best out of him. Under Rafa, though, he was deployed as a right midfielder meaning he couldn’t attack as much without leaving gaps.
I’m sure that given one season under Hodgson, Ryan will become the player we all hoped he would be. It may be a few seasons overdue, but had he joined Arsenal, I’m convinced that we would already be regretting not buying him.
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