Tag Archives: Ryan Babel

WHAT FULHAM SHOULD EXPECT FROM RYAN BABEL?

Once he was dubbed the next Thierry Henry. The following decade has seen him drifting from Abu Dhabi to Galicia to an unexpected revival in Istanbul. But Cetin Cem Yilmaz asks can Ryan Babel save Fulham from relegation? 

“I can’t do the goal celebration by myself, sorry.”

We are standing in the middle of an empty stadium: Ryan Babel, a videographer and me. We are at the Beşiktaş Park on a weekday morning and shoot some B-roll footage to accompany our UEFA.com interview. We ask the Dutchman to replicate a goal celebration but the answer is negative.

“I only have one celebration,” he says, adding that he doesn’t do that alone. The move involves two players jumping in unison and crashing into each other. This is just a celebration but somehow fits into Ryan Babel’s role at Beşiktaş. Since arriving at the Black Eagles in January 2017, he has never been the leading man but always excelled in the supporting actor role and he will need to do more of the same to save Fulham from relegation.

Image result for ryan babel fulham

YEARS OF REVIVAL

Babel arrived in Turkey as a player who barely revived his career in Deportivo La Coruña, following spells at Kasımpaşa and Al Ain. He is leaving Turkey now as a well-decorated player. In the two years since his arrival, no player in the Turkish top-flight has won more games than him (52). This stretch includes a Super Lig title, a UEFA Europa League quarterfinal appearance against Olympique Lyon (losing on penalties), an unbeaten UEFA Champions League group campaign (a record for a Turkish team), and a return to the Netherlands national team after six years of absence.

Player Goals Games*
Anderson Talisca 31 70
Ryan Babel 29 89
Cenk Tosun 27 48
Álvaro Negredo 18 49
Vincent Aboubakar 12 16

*Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

He redeemed himself at Beşiktaş, but helped the Black Eagles a lot on the way. Only Anderson Talisca has scored more goals (31) for Beşiktaş than Babel (29) since his debut, but the Brazilian did that in playing 19 games less. Still, that is remarkable for him, given he was outscored not only by Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt, but also by David Ngog whilst at Liverpool (Ngog scored nine Premier League goals in a red shirt onwards 2008, while Babel managed only eight in that period – overall, it was 12 in 91 games for Babel).

Player Assists Games
Ricardo Quaresma 30 82
Oğuzhan Özyakup 21 84
Caner Erkin 15 62
Anderson Talisca 13 70
Ryan Babel 12 89

Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

What he did in the assists department is not striking at first glance: He is the fifth Beşiktaş player in that regard. Ricardo Quaresma and Oğuzhan Özyakup dwarf him in that category while even Caner Erkin and Anderson Talisca delivered far more in fewer games.

CONSISTENT SCORING

If you look at his overall stats throughout his career, you see a guy delivering similar stats in minutes per goals or assists, either as the wonderkind in Amsterdam, or “the next Thierry Henry” at Merseyside, or the fall guy in the periphery of the Süper Lig elite at Kasımpaşa. Babel kept scoring or assisting once in every two games. His image and career trajectory might suggest otherwise, but Babel is a pretty reliable player in terms of production. And while Fulham fans should not expect him to go on a scoring spree, they can be relieved that he would be there, getting on the score sheet every two weeks (Fantasy Premier League players, take note!).

Team Games Goals Assists Mins/Goal Involvement
Liverpool 146 22 18 167
Ajax 133 29 19 175
Hoffenheim 51 6 4 412
Kasımpaşa 59 14 12 190
Deportivo 12 5 1 130
Beşiktaş 89 29 12 181

Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

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THE ENABLER

However, Ryan Babel did something more in his second trip to Istanbul. He was just another member of a star-studded frontline at Beşiktaş, and managed to shine when it mattered. The front four of Quaresma – Talisca – Babel – Cenk (Aboubakar in his first half year) was plenty for opposition to handle – especially in Europe, when Beşiktaş had the luxury to find more spaces instead of a squeezed box-play in the Süper Lig. Throughout 2017, Beşiktaş faced remarkable European opposition in the shape of Porto, Monaco, RB Leipzig, Olympique Lyon, Olympiakos – and were never outplayed.

Babel struck key goals in Europe, and overall, he scored with 43 percent of his shots (six goals from 14 shots) in Europe, compared to his still-admissible 22 percent shot conversion rate in the Süper Lig. Much more than this, his movement and intelligent play gave Talisca and Cenk the perfect stage to shine (both made very lucrative deals to China and England, respectively). While right winger Ricardo Quaresma is a trigger-happy crosser, Babel offered flick-ons, one-offs or cutbacks from the other wing – that was how Talisca and Cenk scored dozens.

FULHAM DIAGNOSIS

But what should Fulham be expecting from Babel? After all, a brief look at the table would show their main problem is not the attack, but rather the fact that they are leaking goals. At 49, they have allowed at least six goals than the next poorest defence, which is Burnley, and their goal difference is a shocking -29. For comparison, they have scored 20 goals as did Crystal Palace, who are slightly more comfortable on 14th spot.

However, Fulham, unlike other relegation-battlers, are a team looking to have more time on the ball. Their average possession of 47.1 percent is 10th in the league.  Their passing accuracy is 78.4 percent, sandwiched between other purveyors of the beautiful game, Wolves and Bournemouth (all trail “the Big Six”). Their 177 successful passes in the opposition half per game is better than any other team besides “the Big Six” in the Premier League.

What they do with the ball is another question: Fulham are only sixth from bottom when you question successful passes in the final third (76.7 per game). Despite all this possession stats, they shoot 12.1 per game, and this is higher than only six clubs in the league. And, 47.6 percent of their shots are from outside the box – the higher rate in the league. This 127 shots overall has an xG of 3.25 (mind you, they have only two goals from outside the box).

Team xG
Huddersfield 15,09
Newcastle 19,32
Brighton 22,38
Fulham 23,02
Cardiff 23,33

Image result for ryan babel fulham

The system in which Babel was thriving at Beşiktaş was one with four attackers but Fulham are mostly using three in the front. Claudio Ranieri is still trying to find the right mix between Ryan Sessegnon, André Schürrle and Aboubakar Kamara in either side of Aleksandar Mitrović. They all find the net every now and then, but for Fulham, the problem is more about creating than about converting. If Ryan Babel manages to be the “enabler” guy as he was in Beşiktaş, the one making spaces and enabling Anderson Talisca and Cenk Tosun to find spaces, there could be hope for Fulham.

Team Goals xG Difference
Crystal Palace 20 25,90 -5,9
Southampton 23 27,47 -4,47
Cardiff 19 23,33 -4,33
Wolves 23 27,25 -4,25
Newcastle 16 19,32 -3,32
Fulham 20 23,02 -3,02

Önder Özen is a current television pundit but before that, he served at two big Istanbul clubs, as an assistant to Zico at Fenerbahçe and a sporting director to Slaven Bilic at Beşiktaş. He coached Babel during his brief head coaching stint at Kasımpaşa and would later command the Dutchman as one of the better professionals he worked with, much to his surprise. With his carefree social media presence, his ever-changing hairstyles and cool goal celebrations, it is easy to mistake him for a maverick. And indeed, sometimes he is one. In the last six months, he openly criticized Beşiktaş’s Twitter account for not sharing the videos from his YouTube channel, entered into a couple of online arguments with the club’s fans, even using profanity. Last month, when he was still out of the squad due to this feud, he celebrated his birthday by posting a video, which was soundtracked by all the critics dismissing him.

That is Ryan Babel for you. At his worst, you have a mutiny on your hand. At his best, he will score goals and make things better for everyone around him. The fine line between the two is usually all about support from around – the coach, teammates and the fans.

After all, he doesn’t like to do things by himself.

Çetin Cem Yılmaz

Read more from Cetin here

Ryan Babel – The Forgotten Talent

“Thierry Henry is an idol for me, I used to watch him a lot on the TV.”

It may be crazy to think now but the player who uttered those words was once considered another Henry in waiting. This player seemingly had the world at his feet but for one reason or another in never clicked.

Ryan Babel was born on December 19 1986 in Amsterdam. Like many in the city he grew up with a passion for football. At a young age he joined his local youth side SV Diemen before moving on to represent Fortius Amsterdam.

In 1997 he tried out for Ajax and a place in their famous youth academy. However despite making it as far as the first selection round his initial attempt proved unsuccessful. Undeterred Babel came back the following year and this time made his mark.

Blessed with fast and explosive pace coupled with lashings of skill alongside plenty of strength and just enough aggressiveness, Babel soon made a name for himself within the Ajax set up. At 15 his talent had developed to such a level that the club organised one-on-one sessions with Marco van Bastan for him.

Van Basten himself had only just qualified as a coach and the club felt the two together would bring out the best in one another. Whatever Babel did in these get together’s the former Dutch maestro was clearly impressed.

“He has all the potential to become the next Henry, the pace, the movement, finishing, feel for the game – it’s all there.”

That wasn’t all Van Basten continued to enthuse about this potential Dutch prodigy, “If he keeps developing and improving there is no saying what he might achieve.”

While Van Basten would eventually move on Babel stayed put. Two months after his 17th birthday he made his debut in the Ajax first team against ADO Den Haag. The Godenzone ran out comfortable four-nil winners on the day.

A new talented generation of Dutch players was also emerging around this timeframe that included the likes of Robben, Van Persie, Sjnieder, Van Dar Vaart and Huntelaar. Babel although younger than the rest was considered by many in the Netherlands to be at the forefront of a new golden generation.

13 months after his Ajax debut, Babel was making his first appearance for the national team. He soon became the countries youngest goal scorer in 68 years with a strike against Romania.

By the time the u21 European championship rolled around in 2007, Babel was an old hand at this international lark having already played 14 times for the senior side. Nonetheless he did his job for the under 21’s inspiring them to victory in the competition.

It wasn’t long before clubs with money to burn started sniffing around this prodigious talent. Rumours abound that Premiership side Arsenal were all set to make an offer. Babel himself even spoke about how it would be an honour to play under Arséne Wenger.

However he was forced to backtrack slightly on those remarks when in fact it was fellow English club Liverpool who agreed a deal with Ajax to sign him. Babel was Merseyside bound, in a deal that would see him join the Reds for a substantial fee in and around £11.5m.

The 2007/08 season his first in England started well for Babel. Former Reds defender and well known TV pundit Mark Lawrenson immediately compared him to another former Anfield great in the shape of John Barnes. Kenny Daglish was also said to be a fan.

Babel’s transition into the English game appeared to be progressing smoothly. He even won the clubs young player of the year in his first season for the club.

However scratch the surface and you soon found that all was not as cosy as it seemed. Babel struggled to command a starting spot week in week out and found himself quite often sprung from the bench rather than playing from the first minute each week.

Also being played out wide rather than down the middle as he preferred contributed to a growing frustration, “Benitez knows I like to play up front and hopefully one day he will give me a chance to play there.”

Try as he might though Babel failed to nail down that starting spot and the times he was given a chance to impress in his favoured striking role he flattered to deceive. With game time becoming patchy his development also began to stagnate.

Dropped from the Dutch squad for a Euro 2008 qualifier for oversleeping for a second time and also being fined £10,000 by the FA for posting a picture of Referee Howard Webb in a Man United jersey on his twitter page painted Babel in an unfavourable public light.

A perception emerged that he was someone who didn’t really care enough about his profession and was more interested in creating Rap music (He had a Dutch number one hit) and goofing off. All of this though could not have been further from the truth as Babel was extremely dedicated professional who always gave his all.

With the departure of Benitez from Liverpool, Babel was presented with another chance to get his career back on track. However the chance went a begging as he slipped further down the Reds pecking order. It even reached a point where David N’Gog was chosen in front of him.

Despite his troubles in England Babel continued to be called up to the Dutch squad, but injuries stunted his impact. In January 2011, after four hit and miss years on Merseyside, it came time for Babel to move on.

His career had taken a turn down a dark alley and he needed fresh impetus to get it back on the right course. The place he hoped he would find that spark was with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim. Who he joined for €8m.

Even though things may not have worked out as planned for him at Liverpool he continued to retain a fondness for the city and the clubs fans. He even continues to retain a house there. On leaving however he couldn’t resist a final parting shot a former manager Benitez.

“Rafa Benitez promised me a certain development, but very quickly he took away that promise and it was a totally different situation.” “I don’t think I ever played more than three times in a row.”

If Germany was to be the land of new opportunities for Babel, it proved a massive let down. Over a stop start year and a half Babel failed to make the desired impact. Playing 51 times scoring only six and in August 2012 he and the club agreed to terminate the rest of his contract.

By now his international career had also disintegrated into obscurity. He was part of the Dutch squad for the 2010 World Cup, but failed to make a single appearance as the Netherlands made it all the way to the final.

It had been an alarming decline for Babel who was still only in his mid-twenties at this stage. The World Cup in South Africa should have been his introduction to the world stage, yet he spent it all sitting on a bench.

In 2012 he returned home to Ajax signing a one year deal. Some saw the move as a step back but not Babel who was just delighted to be home, “Some people will see my 1 year deal with Ajax as a step back, but that’s not how I see it. This is a step in the right direction for me after a difficult period.”

Yet again though Babel’s fresh start proved a false dawn. He only managed nine starts in the league during his one season back. Making nowhere near the impact he hoped. He cited his wish to leave the younger generation come through as a reason for leaving.

Although his substantial wages must surely also have been a factor. The question of where to next for this mercurial talent quickly arose, England again, Italy, France maybe. In the end he plumped for the footballing outpost that is Turkey.

Now when we think of the Turkish league three clubs usually spring to mind, Galatasaray, Fenerbache and Besiktas. Babel joined neither of the three but instead signed for the unheralded Kasımpaşa. A team located in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul.

Still only 28 years of age Ryan Babel should be entering the peak of his powers, instead he is playing in the wilderness that is the Turkish Super Lig. There is still time for him to turn it all around and realise a fraction of his talent that he undeniably has. That time however shrinks considerably with each passing day.

Potential can only get you so far and nobody knows that better than Ryan Babel.

I don’t think I’ve shown my full potential yet, we can’t all be Lionel Messi even if we want to – RYAN BABEL

Bibliography:

Articles used to research feature:

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2010/sep/16/ryan-babel-liverpool

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/251821-the-enigma-that-is-ryan-babel

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-468047/Liverpool-signing-Babel-new-Henry.html

http://soccerlens.com/why-liverpools-ryan-babel-is-the-next-world-superstar/3011/

http://www.fifa.com/world-match-centre/nationalleagues/nationalleague=germany-bundesliga-2000000019/news/newsid/170/708/5/index.html

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/babel-ajax-not-step-back-114400206–sow.html

http://www.irishexaminer.com/sport/soccer/international/dozy-babel-faces-dutch-axe-nightmare-45264.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/ryan-babel-exclusive-former-liverpool-1389854

http://www.ryanbabel.co.uk/ryan-babel-biography

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/ryan-babel-im-the-new-thierry-726108

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