Ryan Babel came to Liverpool with high expectations after coming up the ranks at the Ajax Academy and hailed as one of the most promising young forwards. His three seasons at Liverpool have been full of false twilights, he has scored some brilliant goals however there has been a lot of inconsistency in his play.
I believe that 2009/10 has been the season that has defined Ryan and my feeling is that he will finally shine and become the legend that he is destined to be. Last year’s pre-season started brilliantly with him scoring Liverpool’s first pre-season goal. Unfortunately once the season started Ryan faded and spent most of the time on the bench, Rafa did give him some opportunities but he didn’t deliver. Then Ryan got onto Twitter which might have distracted from focusing on the game, especially when certain fans were dishing out abuse at him over his performance. It was very clear that Ryan did not enjoy this, he kept changing his Twitter account name and started protecting it, allowing only a select group of fans to see what he was tweeting about. The whole thing came to head in January with his famous Twitter rant with complaints directed at Rafa. Everyone expected Ryan to leave in the January transfer, his exit seemed very likely however Rafa wanted to give him another chance. Ryan apologised to Rafa, he paid the fine and served the ban. Ryan continued tweeting but most of his tweets talked about his music, he has other passions besides football and some fans took this as a negative. He even clashed with me when he thought I was trying to get him in trouble, a joke comment I tweeted back-fired. I later apologised to him and we both made up. The Dutchman finally came out of the shell at the end of the season and was a regular starter for the last few games.
Last week he retweeted one of my tweets which was the story on the Liverpool Echo quoting Rafa praising his improvement. On Sunday Ryan started following the club’s official Twitter for the first time, looks like he is more than committed to stay in my opinion. Maybe it is a Dutch thing, after seeing Mourinho hug Robben on Saturday something clicked. Both Robben and Snyder were warming the benches at Real Madrid, now they both have flourished at Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively.
Does the Spanish style of management not mix well with the young Dutch players? We all know that Rafa is not the huggy-kissy kind, his approach is more though-love. Rafa pushes his players and demands nothing more than perfection, even Stevie G. when he was younger struggled with Rafa’s approach. If a player scores 30 goals, Rafa is going to ask for 35 the following season. For younger players who come up in an academy that builds them up as the best thing since Cruyff then there is going to be a feeling that they are not appreciated. I believe that Rafa has realised this now and that is why over the last few months you have seen him taking time to acknowledge individual brilliance or improvements when warranted.