Stars in your Eyes – by Alex

Hello my friends…. A great article on Ryan Babel by our “talent expert”, Alex.

June 2005, the world cup Under 20 was on its way right here in the Netherlands and we were enthusiastic. As usual, we had some very promising young players on the way, they would be the next superstars of Oranje, of the world, all they needed was time. Time they got but many of those stars in our eyes failed to shine.

Today I will be introducing my concept contribution to the blog and focusing on one recently receiving renewed attention on our blog; Ryan Babel. 

Who were those ‘stars-to-be’. To give you an idea, the selection included familiar names like Kenneth Vermeer, Urby Emanuelson, Ron Vlaar, Hedwiges Maduro and Ryan Babel. But how about current Bosnian international and ‘balvirtuoos’ Haris Medunjanin, reliable Dwight Tiendalli (now at Swansea), half a twin Jeroen Drost, former mister overweight Collins John and Prince Rajcomar… Anyway, it is striking how few of the talents from then actually delivered on their promise. A headline from the time: ‘Who are the stars of under-20?’ revealed our poorly hidden optimism. The absolute star of the team was Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, but in his shadows, the tower of Babel began its construction. From the grounds of Ajax’ youth academy and the Oranje selections came a bright young star striker named Ryan Babel. 

Already a first team international (scoring a goal on his debute vs Romania), Babel proved one of the promises of the future, a classy striker to be like many before him. Described as a modern striker: fast, agile, handy, and able to get past a man AND score a goal.

Coach Marco van Basten first picked him for the big Oranje. Indeed he still has all the attributes to make it big, nothing has changed there. Since the U-20 world cup (where oranje stranded in a quarter final penalty series) his star kept shining bright, where Quincy and Collins John stayed in their relative poor positions at respectively Arsenal (followed by Spartak Moscow and Al-Sadd ) and Fulham (with loans to several clubs). Babel made his way into Ajax 1 and Oranje 1. Despite being marked as a central striker, Babel was most frequently used as a winger, never really nailing down a spot, the talent was there, but it never blossomed and more often than we would’ve liked, he made a very uninspired impression. He continued to play regularly and then there it was: the U-21 European Championship. Foppe de Haan was our coach and Babel the main man. 

Our Frisian tactician Foppe devised a surprising squad and a peculiar line-up with an unconventional striker duo. Long time hot-shot Ryan Babel was partnered to nobody Maceo Rigters, a combination that proved most successful, earning unknown Rigters the title of tournament topscorer with Babel shining as the shadow striker, the ‘aangever’. The partnership needed time to grow but culminated by a superb performance in the final where Babel dished out subtle passes left and right, grabbing a few goals himself during the tournament.

Ryan Babel annoying many fans with his musical career….

Finally he showed what most of us knew, that he had the potential to be a class player. Then and there the success story got its dream ending when the team grabbed the title in an impressing display of football excellence, crushing Serbia 4-1 in Groningen’s Euroborg stadium. It didn’t take long for the big clubs to take notice, having been on international scouting lists for years. The 20-year-old Amsterdam striker made his way overseas, being snapped up by Liverpool FC for a phenomenal sum of close to 18 million euro’s. 

It proved an unsatisfactory move for the self-proclaimed part time rapper as Rafa Benitez often kept him on the bench. In fact, the impressive performance of young oranje was mostly down to a well balanced team where the two strikers formed the end of the line, enjoying a plentiful supply through some very dynamic and productive wingers (Drenthe and De Ridder), making them the final link in the chain. At Liverpool, the few rare occasions where he was indeed on the pitch, saw him being employed as a winger, and only on occasion in the strikers role he always desired to be. On a few instances, the brilliant striker in him showed. With several trademark goals cutting inside from the wing, pulling the trigger from a distance.

Most notably though his sublime goal versus Derby County.
 (Putting two Derby-players on the wrong foot in one move)

Roy Hodgson’s arrival at Liverpool proved of little help for his career and a move out seemed inevitable. A move to Hoffenheim was on its way, the Bundesliga was the place where Babel hoped to revive his career. His disappointing German fairytale soon ended when the root of his career knocked on the door. Ajax brought back the lost Godenzoon for just a fraction of the price they sold him for. Coach Frank de Boer managed to get the striker to buy off his own contract and make the move back to Eredivisie for free. At Ajax, Babel seems to prove once again that however talented he may be, a seeming lack of consistency and ability to rise above a few rare moments of brilliance render him unfit for the international top. Ajax may have earned themselves 18 million because of Foppe de Haan’s managing skills. 
It seems the striking talent indeed resembles the biblical story in many ways. However impressive at first glance, a rough gem, permanently in scaffolding. It remains unclear whether Babel will ever reach and attain top form as a striker, for now though, he is useful enough for Ajax, proving a weapon with his speed and ability to score. For now, he remains an eternal talent, with so much potential gone to waste. Like many of his former team mates of that U-20 tournament, never reaching the level that was expected of them. Since he will be turning 26 this year, only time will tell if he ever will mature enough to reach beyond the Ajax level.

It just goes to show, talent alone does not get you there in top sports. 

For now, his performances do not warrant a return in the Oranje jersey, but I will be following him with great interest. 

Hope you enjoyed, 

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  1. His biggest mistake was joining liverpool a team doesnt know how to play beautifull football in 15 years.Especially with spanish waiter Benitz as coach..poor babel…victim of his own bad decision and attitude.

  2. Babel will never make it to the highest stage.
    Put most simply, he lacks a footballing brain.

    He could have all the skill in the world, but without the intelligence to use it he will remain a constant disappointment. I shudder with fear and regret every single time a ball is passed to him. Funnily enough, so does he.

    I sincerely hope he never wears an Oranje shirt again. He is not a measure of a team’s strength. He is a measure of how far they have fallen.

  3. Thank you Alex, great post.

    Well, I can`t see bebel in orange, just because there are better players on the same position.

    As central striker, he has to compete with RVP, KJH, RVW, LdJ, SdJ, and as left winger: Robben, Affelay, Eljero (he is doing well in WB) and Lens.

    So…. lets see what he do next years.

    He singned with Ajax only for ne year. I really hope he remain more time in Amsterdam, for his own interest.

  4. Never say never 😉

    At least he is now willing to change and with Frank de Boer he might have the perfect maestro to do that, he needs to change his mentality.

  5. Actually i thought that had he not had that awefull injury right before euro 2008 where he was out of the team selection, he might have have a completely diff outcome to his career. I really thought he would shine in that tournament.

  6. Thanks for this article, Alex. I have stars in my eyes as much as anyone. This week, it’s Boetius. Some of the greatest fun of cheering for the NT is hoping for rising talent.

    Hope against hope, it would be great to see Babel succeed. He’s come home to a fine young coach in Frank. May he prosper at Ajax!

  7. Thanks Alex – well written for someone who’s mother tongue is NOT English – Babel seems to work very hard on the field, however many times he is NOT getting the thru balls which he culd use. Too many times balls are sent straight to his feet where he has to hold up the ball for on rushing siem or erikson….I hope he continues with Ajax for a while yet.

  8. haven’t read this article yet but i will shortly..

    2 quick things to say first:

    1) you are getting way ahead of yourselves about ajax…….. young energetic team but still can’t compete in europe as cruyff states. they need to inject a lot of talent to match the bug guns in europe.

    2) you are getting way ahead of yourselves about babel…. he still has a long way to go to prove he is a force to be reckoned with and compete on the big stage.

  9. AP Global Soccer 10 (for week ending Oct. 29.)
    1. Lionel Messi, 140 points.
    2. Cristiano Ronaldo, 111.
    3. Radamel Falcao, 79.
    4. Robin van Persie, 73.
    5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 61.
    6. Gonzalo Higuain, 50.
    7. Juan Mata, 41.
    8. Javi Hernandez, 28.
    9. Cesc Fabregas, 27.
    10. Mario Gotze, 26.
    1. Barcelona, 130 points.
    2. Atletico Madrid, 109.
    3. Manchester United, 105.
    4. Borussia Dortmund, 81.
    5. Real Madrid, 64.
    6. Schalke, 59.
    7. Juventus, 53.
    8. Bayer Leverkusen, 49.
    9. Shakhtar Donetsk, 37.
    10. Ajax, 35.
    AP Global Soccer 10 Panelists
    Cedric Rouquette, Europsport, France
    James Porteous, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong
    Gregor Derichs, dapd, Germany
    Francois Colin, De Standaard, Belgium
    Willem Vissers, Volkskraant, Netherlands
    Christian Schatze, Der, Germany
    Jose Antonio Cortes, Record, Mexico
    Will Tidey, Bleacher Report, United States
    Federico Giammaria, LaVoz, Argentina
    Jerome Touboul, L’Equipe, France
    Mike McGrath, Wardles News Agency/The Sun, England
    Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, United States
    Julian Bennetts, Hayters News Agency, England
    Aurelio Capaldi, Rai, Italy
    Orfeo Suarez, El Mundo, Spain
    Paulo Vinicius Coelho, Estado de S.Paulo. Brazil
    Tom Timmermann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    John Duerden,, South Korea

    Read more:

  10. @goorange thanks man…..some more
    Daley Blind??????????????????Another biases selection due to danny to dany blind????Oh god this can cause serious problems if he could ghet final cut.i have not seen much of van ginkel…heard that he is like cocu..
    @Alex great read mate,You are one of the realistic blogger in this blog..keep it up…

    1. Doesn’t seem particularly biased. The selection is coming off the back of some good performances by Daley Blind. I’ve never been a big fan of Daley Blind, but he’s been impressive lately. Definitely not a starter for Oranje, but I’m glad Van Gaal is assessing bench options as well. He’s building a team rather than just a starting XI, as BvM did (who I still greatly respect).

    2. ‘i have not seen much of van ginkel…’

      I don’t think you’ve seen much of Daley Blind either!
      Do you actually watch ANY games, or do you just talk from your backside? Serious question.

      ‘You are one of the realistic blogger in this blog..’

      Oh sweet, sweet irony. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Coming from you, this comment has made me chuckle all day. No offence intended – just shits and giggles, you understand. All good fun.

      1. @SiN..Dear SiN,i know that you showing your culture,and your wonderful character.I dont have to prove that i am watching games of Ajax,Feynoord.Twente and PSV..I have never questioned the skills and other aspects of Daley Blind.He has it from his father…But he simply get outpaced by fast players..and reflection is also not so great…He might be the best for Ajax in that postion but NT have better players in his postion.Selection of Daley blind is happend by the influence of dont need einsteins’ brilliance to understand that.some what like Bommel-BVM after WC2010.i do chat with alex outside this blog,thats why i said he is realistic also he has identity unlike you.So are many…you want stirr it up thats what u need…

  11. Name Club
    Kenneth Vermeer Ajax
    Maarten Stekelenburg Roma
    Tim Krul Newcastle
    Jeroen Zoet RKC
    Daley Blind Ajax
    Douglas Twente
    John Heitinga Everton
    Ricardo van Rhijn Ajax
    Nick Viergever AZ
    Ron Vlaar Aston Villa
    Gregory van der Wiel Paris Saint-Germain
    Jetro Willems PSV
    Bruno Martins Indi Feyenoord
    Daryl Janmaat Feyenoord
    Joris Mathijsen Feyenoord
    Stefan de Vrij Feyenoord
    Ibrahim Afellay Schalke
    Jordy Clasie Feyenoord
    Urby Emanuelson AC Milan
    Marco van Ginkel Vitesse
    Siem de Jong Ajax
    Adam Maher AZ
    Kevin Strootman PSV
    Rafael van der Vaart Hamburg
    Nigel de Jong AC Milan
    Luciano Narsingh PSV
    Bas Dost Wolfsburg
    Eljero Elia Werder Bremen
    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Schalke
    Dirk Kuyt Fenerbahce
    Ruben Schaken Feyenoord
    Jeremain Lens PSV
    Robin van Persie Manchester United
    Arjen Robben Bayern Munich

  12. Nice Article , Alex . Keep it up 🙂 .
    I always think Babel is better as a CF or as a SS . just like persie And thiery Henry . he can be great in building up too ” ajax first goal against Feyenoord ?? 🙂 ”
    his move to liverpool was a big mistake . FdB is trying to get the best out of him so let’s wait and see .

    Regarding the preselection , I was almost sure Babel, Blind , S. De jong and van Ginkel will be included in Oranje primary selection by van gaal 😛 . Babel is not included though .

    However i’m not sure they will make it into the final cut , although i would like to see van ginkel with the Big Oranje . He is as good as maher imo , so he deserves a chance too .

    Nice to see de vrij back again , him and douglas will compete and will try to show their worth to van gaal 🙂 .

    Nice Preselection .

    1. De guzman will probably play for the Canadian national team , Tiju .
      I don’t follow sporting Lisbon , so i don’t know how good is Schaars , Boulahrouz or Ricky Wolf .

      1. hey MO, just so you know…. I tweeted at de Guzman a year or so ago and asked him Dutch or Canadian?
        he said: DUTCH

        but yea, his brother plays for a lowly Canada team…

          1. Because he thinks he’s above the rest of the CMNT. He wants to play for whichever team gives him the best chance of playing in the world cup. Before the Canada’s deciding game against Honduras he said that he would play for Canada if they made it into the hex, but wasn’t willing to give up his eligibility for Oranje to help the team get there. It seems clear to me that he’s more interested in playing in the WC than playing for a country because it’s his country

      2. i really wished for De Guzman in the place of Bommel in Euro2012.choosen fate.Bert always prefered old ass and son in law..Mate…there is a chance he might end up playing for canada…We have 4 spot for holding mids and he bleongs there…
        De Jong Vs Fer Vs strootman Vs Clasie Vs anita Vs Deguzman…
        this guy play very well for Swanea city in a tough league and always gets rate of 7 or 6.5,what else we need???

    2. Don’t know why he’s not selected, Sporting lisbon has struggled, Even though Boulahrouz is a great manmarker,

      Schaars is great

      Van Wolfswinkel though has been struggling with service but he’s been great for the limited service although he misses some shots a little too often

        1. not bad but we need attacking midfielder too, Snejder-Strootman-Fer/Clasie is Best. i think Fer is better than Classie. however i never see both of them in the single game, i just read your comments 😉
          i choonse Affely because his attacking power insist emanuelson and injured Fer:(

  13. Really good piece, Alex. Thank you.

    I think too often the mistake is made that a player is judged by what we want him to be, not by what he is…Babel has done pretty well for himself. He’s played on the NT; at Liverpool, and has fought back from some career setbacks and is currently playing a useful role at Ajax by, what appears to me, understanding his strengths and upping his work rate. That shows me alot.

  14. I am a big Daley Blind Fan and he has been one of Ajax best players in past few games. Except to me he is nowhere near Oranje material – For me Schaars is still ahead of him and so are 4 Left Backs !!

    1. Yes Jalphino u r right,90 percent of the things happening in our life according to our decisions…i really wish Jefrry bruma would have done the same with feynoord so is Van annholt…….

    2. ‘if only Babel stayed with Ajax abit longer…who knows how good a player he could be right now…’

      I think we all know. He’s a headless chicken with his feet on the wrong legs. I have never seen such a lack of talent being given so many chances. He’s a waste of space and he lacks the basic intelligence to understand why.
      He cannot receive the ball, he cannot keep the ball, he cannot pass the ball. He’s not a footballer – he’s just a very, very lucky little boy with above average pace. To see him in an Ajax shirt makes me sad.
      Nice article Alex, but I wish you had chosen to talk about someone with more potential than this brainless clownshoe.

  15. I hope de Guzman rots like the dirty piece of dog turd he is!!!!!

    Now that I have that out of way, very interesting selection from LVG! Although being Germany, I don’t expect too many crazy first team selections!

  16. —————-Stekelenburg———————-




  17. Carlos, have you lost your mind? Blind is by far the best left back we have in Holland at the moment. He has improved so much this year. His intelligence, football sense and positioning/anticipation are top class. And they make up for his lack of speed.
    By the way, it took me 4 days to digest the draw against Feyenoord. Koeman should be ashamed of his team of blue collar workers. This Feyenoord team reminds me of the one with Bosvelt and so on from 10 years ago. Immers is an assassin and should have been red-carded and frankly so is Clasie. The referee stole the victory from Ajax, once again this season. It is happening too often to just be a mere coincidence. Babel scored a perfectly valid goal against Heracles that is mysteriously disallowed for offside although he was 2 yards on side.

  18. been reading some interesting things about how the 3-5-2 is the foil to the 4-2-3-1 with italians playing it best

    in the Italian leagues 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 are most used.

    3-5-2 clogs the midfield and has seven guys forward at once, it’s interesting to note that paris saint germain plays this since i’ve been watching them lately to see van der wiel

    I can see it being used to bring out the best and limiting the defensive liabilities of willems and van der wiel, possibly getting buttner involved

    So the line up would

    ————-Van Persie—–Robben—-
    ———Strootman——siem de jong—–
    Willems————————Van der wiel

    Just throwing that out there

  19. ——————Stekelenburg——————–




    This would be my favorite.

  20. If Anita wasn’t completely brainless about his development and didn’t go to Newcastle, my favourite midfield would be:

    –Clasie – Anita – Sneijder–

    1. A midget
      Really I think they would have problems with,lets say,Belgium whose midfielders are over 1.85. and also very skillful. I would put at least one taller player in there.
      Spain has the most skillful small players but they still put a taller,stronger one in thier midfield-Xabi Alonso.
      For us that would be Strootman.

      1. ‘Spain has the most skillful small players but they still put a taller,stronger one in thier midfield-Xabi Alonso.
        For us that would be Strootman.’

        Very astute assessment.

  21. Thanks all for the great comments. We are going from strength to strength. Alex’ article is hopefully a first of series of many. Not just by Alex…also by you?? Let me know!

    I am with Carlos on Blind. He was a sensational talent already when he was only 14 years old. This guy’s ball touch is exquisite. He sees the game and is pretty allround. Major weakness: lack of speed and lack of fighting spirit. Once he gets the same venom in his veins as Sneijder now or Clasie, he will be awesome. I also agree with Carlos: maybe Blind is more a defensive midfielder.

  22. Guys why does nobody rate VDV anymore? In all of the teams people have just posted, you have put affelay in the midfield 3 who in reality is a massive disappointment considering how good we all though he was going to be. Fair play he has been doing fairly well at schalke but in comparison VDV has transformed a below average HSV into a decent team. Even in our last couple of games VDV was involved in all of the goals and all of a sudden he is forgotten by us. Let me ask you this, how many NT players have played at a better level than VDV so far this season for club and country? The problem is we fantasise too much

    1. Yes, it’s weird, steen. VDV is a great talent, but gets little respect here.

      We all have our blind spots (and I’m not talking Danny and Daley). 😉

  23. Jeff I am a very big fan of Daley his touch is exquisite,his reading second to none, but still rate bmi, pieters and willems ahead of him also Schaars. I sure hope he continues to improve and prefer him at left half in a 4-3-3 system so that he is not the last line.

  24. Jan, no surprise from you since you are the die hard Feyenoord fan on the blog. You agree with Carlos but all the statements you made are exactly the ones I made. So please give credit where credit is due.
    Carlos, BMI is much better in the center, Pieters is out and may never recover. That Willems as the only contender and there I agree that Willems may still be a better choice. But Blind is way smarter and has better feet than Willems. As for Schaars, he has no future in oranje. He is just an ok player.

  25. I can’t see Daley in the long-term picture, I think it’s just a stop-gap solution until Willems get his rhythm back. People critiqued Pieters because of his slowness and footballing skills, or lack thereof.. well, Daley is a lot like Pieters without the grittiness. Having said that, Daley has been red hot this past couple months, so I am delighted that he got the call up he deserves. I’d say give him a few minutes, at the very least, it will hopefully boost his confidence. Also, test Viergiever at LB, he may surprise a few people.

    At center, I would love to see Douglas and BMI partnership. To me this is the best combination of power and quickness, not to mention potent aerial threats in attack. I won’t be too disappointed to see De Vrij instead of Douglas. SdV gives up physical presence and ability to build-up, but he offers more steadiness and is less mistake-prone. Please no Heitinga or Mathijsen. This friendly should be used to test new faces, not the old farts because we all know they won’t get any better from this point forward.

    1. Blind has much better footballing skills than Pieters. At the moment he’s one of the best passers on Ajax. Footballing isn’t his problem, defending is.

  26. Thank you Alex!
    Looking at the provisional squad, I hope that many young players who has not played for the national team will make the cut and make the debut. This is a friendly, right? Why not testing these young players but still test the veterans.
    I would pick the following:
    Kenneth Vermeer
    Tim Krul
    Jeroen Zoet
    Daley Blind
    Ricardo van Rhijn
    Nick Viergever
    Gregory van der Wiel
    Jetro Willems
    Bruno Martins Indi
    Daryl Janmaat
    Stefan de Vrij
    Ibrahim Afellay
    Jordy Clasie
    Urby Emanuelson
    Marco van Ginkel
    Siem de Jong
    Adam Maher
    Kevin Strootman
    Luciano Narsingh
    Bas Dost
    Eljero Elia
    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
    Ruben Schaken
    Jeremain Lens
    Arjen Robben

    Janmaat Douglas BMI Willems
    Strootman Siem De Jong Clasie
    Narsingh Huntelaar Afellay

    I will sub in Vemeer, Blind, Viergever,Van Der Wiel, Emmanuelson, Maher, Van Ginkel, Elia and Dost beginning second half (or perhaps some of them start so I can see how they are). I would rest Van Persie, not risking Robben to injury. I want to see how good Afellay and Huntelaar up front together and those young players in the second half. On second thought, I do not care if we win or lose. It is not about revenge for the 1-2 loss at Euro. It should be about testing the team, young players so we can beat Germany 2 years from now on the way to winnning our first WC.

  27. Perhaps Ajax and FDB can make Babel better, then perhaps he may have a small chance to be recalled. At this moment I think he can play well for Ajax, but not enough to challenge for a spot in the national due to many better players in the same position. What I see so far from him is good, but not enough.

  28. Feyenoord not too strong. Defensively weak. Janmaat ballwatching. Predictable football. Only Clasie looking ok. Boetius invisible. Schaken predictable. All high balls into the box are for Douglas. Poor.

  29. Does anyone think Theo jannsen deserves a call up for the NT, he is and always has been such a good player to have on the team for experience and ability. LVG if you could hear me

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