Ryan Babel is an attacker for the Netherlands and Liverpool in the English Premier League. He can play anywhere across the front attacking line, but has mainly been played as a right winger at Liverpool, where he can devastate the defenders with his lightning pace and fantastic crossing ability. For the Netherlands he has formed a successful link-up with Sneijder and van Der Vaart as part of the deep-lying attacking line of three, playing behind a central striker.
Ryan Babel was born on 19th December 1986, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Having grown up in the city, Ryan’s allegiances were to Ajax – having been inspired by the likes of Clarence Seedorf and Marco van Basten. When he was eleven years old he attended an open trial at Ajax, but didn’t make it into the academy. A year later, he was invited to try out again, and was this time successful.
After years of terrorising defenders in the youth and reserve teams, Ryan Babel finally got his Ajax Amsterdam first-team debut on February 1st 2004, just two months after his 17th birthday. He remained a fringe player the following season, gaining the benefits of training with world-class players on a daily basis, but not being trusted to shine in matches just yet.
It was only in the 2006/07 season – when Babel had matured and developed sufficiently to cope with the demands of playing every week – that Babel won a first-team spot on a regular basis. 25 first team starts and 5 goals in the league, as well as some important Champions League goals, convinced Liverpool and other clubs to bid for Ryan.
Ryan Babel joined Rafa Benitez at Liverpool on 13th July 2007, for a fee of around £11m. Benitez was looking for greater penetration in attack, with Aaron Lennon, John Arne Riise and Dirk Kuyt failing to make the attacking midfield positions their own. Yossi Benayoun was also presented to the Press on the same day, and Yossi became a key competitor for the attacking wing position.
Whilst Babel struggled to match the pace and skill of the Premier League at the start, Benayoun had previously been with West Ham United, so was given the first-team attacking midfielder slot ahead of Babel. Babel was a regular squad player, and featured in over 30 league games, though mainly as substitute, with Benitez bringing Ryan off the bench to beat the tired legs of the opposition with his pace.
A similar season in 2008/09 followed. With Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres and Riera being preferred in the attacking positions, Babel had a frustrating lack of first-team starts as Liverpool put up a real challenge for the Premier League title for the first time in years.
Ryan Babel made his international debut on the 26th March 2005, after impressing for the Netherlands in the 2005 U-19 World Cup. Called up by legend Marco van Basten, Ryan scored the second goal of the game against Romania, and immediately found himself in contention for a first team spot, even though he was only 19. Babel has failed to have an impact on the major tournaments, with a knee injury restricting him to just one game at the World Cup 2006 Finals, and an ankle-ligament tear keeping him out of Euro 2008 altogether. He normally plays in a combination of three attacking midfielders alongside Robben, Kuyt, van der Vaart or Wesley Sneijder, behind Ruud van Nistelrooy.