Ryan Babel has been around seemingly forever, but he’s still only 30-years-old.
Ten years ago in 2007, Liverpool signed the Dutchman from Ajax, along with his reputation as one of the most exciting young attackers in Europe.
But despite showing ability in short spells or fleeting appearances, he never became an automatic starter and was ultimately a figure fans found frustrating.
Not by his lack of talent, but his failure to use it positively during matches.
In terms of skill, speed and shot power he had it all – but the overall contribution was lacking.
Babel, now at Besiktas, blamed Rafa Benitez for not helping him enough at a crucial age for development.
“So I wish I just had more help to adapt and improve that. By the third year, fourth year it was too late and people called me lazy, all kinds of names,” Babel told the Independent.
“For a 20 year old the gap from Holland to England is massive. That’s a fact. Not all players are able to settle in directly from day one. I remember even Van Persie needed two, three years but he became Van Persie. The difference is I think Wenger actually helped him develop and gave him time.
“Benitez promised me certain things at this time to help me develop which I thought was the same as Ajax but at a different pace,” Babel said. “But from the start I felt basically left out, by myself, no help and that was of course very difficult for a 20 year old. I had really to become an adult very quick and adapt. It was up and down but at the same time I had a great experience there. I learnt a lot. When I look back I could have done things differently but at the same time I also think I could have got more guidance from the coaches.”
We’d perhaps have more time for Babel’s complaints if he hadn’t failed at a number of clubs after leaving Anfield in 2011.
He never made the grade at Hoffenheim, back at Ajax or Kasimpasa – and even had a spell at Al Ain….
Now however, he’s at Besiktas and enjoying the best form of his career, back in the Dutch side as a result.
For his Turkish outfit he’s notched 13 goals in 33 appearances since joining in January this year and finally seems to have found a home to fulfil his undeniable talent.
There’s a chance we could meet Babel in Europe this year too, with Besiktas top of their Champions League group.