The enigma that is Ryan Babel
It appears the seed of promise that was Ryan Babel has not grown to fruition and the foretold prophecy of the new Thierry Henry has not materialized.
It is more than likely Babel will move on, if not in the January transfer window, then more than likely at the end of the current season.
So why has everything gone so pear-shaped for the fly Dutchman?
Liverpool paid a staggering £11.5 million to Ajax in July 2007 for the then 20-year-old Babel’s raw talent. All seemed to be going well, with a well-taken first goal coming against Derby early in his first season.
It was King Kenny who described his goal as a “cracker” and predicted that “we will really see him push on now.” But maybe the bags of potential Babel brought with him from Holland were dipped into sooner than expected.
Herein lies the problem. It is self-evident Babel possess all the necessary talent to terrorize defenders. But are we expecting too much from him, too soon? He is, after all, not yet 23-years old and we are already pushing him into the category of the ‘nearly made it’ players who have graced the turf of Anfield.
Looking at Babel’s scoring record in his time at Ajax illustrates a far from prolific goal-grabber. In his 101 appearances in all competitions, Babel has hit the back of the net on only 20 occasions — hardly awe inspiring.
But it was his raw unrefined talent, his pace, trickery and ability to beat his man in a one-on-one for which Liverpool handed over such a significant amount. So has Babel really lost what Liverpool paid for? I don’t think so.
But it is more than just the fact he hasn’t fulfilled what Dalgish saw that day against Derby. Babel just hasn’t pushed on. His raw ability hasn’t been honed, refined or channelled into developing him into a penetrating winger or frightening striker.
Instead of thrilling us with his wing play, Babel frustrates more often than not. This frustration is borne from the fact that we all know what he can do, but rarely does.
More often than not, his first touch lets him down. When he runs with the ball, it almost appears that he isn’t in total control of it and is running after it rather than with it.
On the odd occasion where he does beat his man, he can’t cash in. There have been occasions where he has shown us the thunderbolt shot he possesses, but they are rare.
The sad thing is that it always appears Babel is frustrated with himself. He knows full well all the talent he possesses but just cannot seem to materialize it on the pitch. So all too often it seems he is trying too hard to prove to the fans, and to himself, that he really is the player he was billed to be.
Considering the upcoming World Cup at the end of the season and Babel’s desire to be on the flight to South Africa, if Rafael Benitez gives him a good run in the starting lineup we may well yet see Babel show us that he is indeed developing into the player we and more importantly, he himself, knows he is capable of becoming.
If he does not see more first team action, the enigma that is Ryan Babel may well be looking to prove himself back at Ajax sooner rather than later.
Nabeel Khokhar is a contributor for Bleacher Report, the open source sports network.