|He's off to terrorise turntables
from Munich to Berlin.
After the summer entertainment that was Ryan Babel hopping in a helicopter and buzzing off to all four corners of the British Isles in an attempt to find a new home only for nothing to happen, a transfer deal for the enigmatic attacker has finally been done, as he'll be heading off to the Bundesliga to join TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
The reported seven million Euro fee--or just a touch under six million pounds--does seem on the low side for a player Liverpool paid nearly twice that much for. However, he was reported to be on wages up to a ridiculous £70,000 per week and had only 18 months left on his contract, and it would be difficult to argue that the player leaving Liverpool is in any way better than the one who arrived instead of just being older. Whatever the specifics, he certainly was one who frustrated more than he tantalized; one who seemed often disinterested, happy to take his paycheque and indulge in various hobbies rather than strive for improvement as a player; and one who more than anything appeared to lack the game intelligence to ever make effective use of those prodigious raw talents that had made it a coup for Liverpool when they first managed to land him.
For all that the occasional moment of raw brilliance left fans hoping he'd one day put the pieces all together, with each passing year it seemed less likely he ever would. Perhaps, then, he is the sort of player who needs to compete at a slightly lower level, on a stage where that raw talent alone will put him above most of his competition. Or perhaps he simply needs to move to a less physical, less defensively organised league. Whether the German league ends up fitting the bill or not, only time will tell, though at this point it's hard to think that any belief he would some day come good at Liverpool was more than naive hope.
So yes, the fee seems low, but how many Liverpool fans would be thrilled to see the club pay £5.8M for Ryan Babel today? Having watched him run into dead ends, ignore teammates, and generally be the least effective player on the club relative to his level of talent year after year, I know that I would have a hard time swallowing such a fee for what would amount to a gamble on wasted potential.
Still, this is the enigma that is Ryan Babel we're talking about. A part of me is still entirely convinced that if he stuck around for just a few more months and got a run of games he'd turn into a superstar. Most of me knows this was never going to happen, of course--probably will never happen anywhere at an especially high level, and certainly was never going to happen at Liverpool.
Hopefully, then, the most important take from all of this will be a freeing up of wages so that even if the fee accepted for Babel was lower than might have seemed ideal, it might still allow Liverpool to make a splashy signing. Elsewhere in transfer land, those Luis Suarez to Liverpool rumours have been heating up, and for a time it was even reported that Babel would be heading to Ajax along with cash to help make up the transfer fee. The new rumour is that Ajax decided to pass on such an offer, preferring a straight cash transfer for the striker who has spent the last year scoring at a rate to match La Liga stars Messi and Ronaldo. Who knows how much--if any--of this is true at this point, but I suspect most would happily accept Babel's exit if it helped lead to Suarez' acquisition.
As for Babel, it will be interesting to see if he does finally come good one of these days. He was never going to come good at Liverpool, though, and with 18 months left on his contract and little chance he'd re-sign--or that Liverpool would be willing to offer him a further contract on the wages he'd become used to--his fee would have only dropped a further million or two pounds between now and the summer. In the end, then, all one can say is good luck, I suppose: his time with the club was more frustrating than anything, and moving on seems likely to be in the best interest of all involved at this point.
So yeah: Good luck, and thanks for all the Tweets.