Ryan Babel is trying Rafa Benitez's patience

By Tony Barrett on Nov 29, 08 07:57 AM in Journalists

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WHEN Dutch football magazine Sportsweek reported this week that Ryan Babel is running out of patience with life at Anfield, one can only hope he was misquoted, misinterpreted or misrepresented.

Because if anyone's patience is being tested it is that of his manager, his team-mates and the Liverpool fans who are all still waiting for signs Babel is about to start fulfilling his clearly rich potential.

The former Ajax man has now been at Anfield for 18 months and in that time he has shown enough flashes of natural talent and ability to suggest he could become one of football's biggest stars.

Crucial goals scored against Manchester United in the league this campaign and Arsenal in last season's Champions League also indicate Babel is far from being intimidated by the big occasion.

His qualities are there for all to see and with the physique of a middleweight boxer and the pace of an Olympic sprinter he should be making life a misery for Premier League defences on a weekly basis.

The fact he isn't and that the amount of time he is being given on the pitch is vastly reduced compared to this time last season tells us that Babel is some way off from being the player which so many people in football believe he can be.

Babel first came to international prominence at the European under-21 Championships which were held in his native Holland in summer 2007.

Scouts drooled over his unerring ability to beat his marker and his eye for a goal, and many observers marked him out as the best player at the tournament by some distance.

In the England ranks at that competition was Ashley Young, who did not live up to Babel's exacting standards despite doing a decent enough job for his country.

Roles have been reversed since then though, with Young becoming one of the Premier League's most exciting players while Babel has spent so much time on Liverpool's bench that he will soon be carrying tweezers in his kit bag in case of splinters.

It could be argued that Babel needs more playing time, but that is difficult when Rafa Benitez is trying to plot a title challenge with players he knows he can rely on.

Babel is almost 22 but we still don't know what he will produce from one game to the next.


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Will it be the player who terrorised Arsenal after coming off the bench in a Champions League quarter-final and the one who did the same against United at Anfield a couple of months back?

Or will it be the one who offered nothing after coming off the bench against Fulham last weekend and the one who was ineffective at home to Portsmouth and anonymous in Carling Cup ties against Spurs and Crewe?

His Liverpool career so far was actually summed up in a single moment when Pompey visited Anfield. Babel bamboozled his marker with the kind of trick that brings crowds to their feet only to give the ball away with his very next touch.

The potential was there but the end product wasn't.

A generation ago, Babel's struggles would have seen him consigned to the reserves for a few months to iron out the creases in his game.

But with second string football no longer viewed as an ideal convalescence for out of touch senior stars, he is going to have to prove his worth within the confines of the first team set-up.

Babel is still more than capable of becoming a top class player but he is certainly not making life easy for himself.

And if he did tell Sportsweek that he has "shown enough patience" at Anfield, someone should remind him of the fact that his chances of holding down a starting place in the side were diminished from the moment he went to the Olympic Games with Holland at the same time his club's Premier League campaign was getting underway.

Patience is a virtue and it is one which Liverpool have afforded to Ryan Babel since he joined the club two summers ago.

Now he is honour-bound to do the same for them.

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