Tag: Drenthe

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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The Dust is settling….

With Oranje’s and Louis’ first defeat behind us, the most important competitions have started… Eredivisie had weekend #2, the EPL has started (it takes time for me to get used to this…) and the Bundesliga and La Liga as well.

Game on!

Bring it on!

Breaking news: Alexander Buttner, the man who could have been Oranje’s left back at the Euros (ex-Ajax, now Vitesse), signed a 5 year deal with Man United!! Obviously, Robin van Persie’s signature overpowered the news of Buttner talking to the Mancunians, but Sir Alex (and Rene Meulensteen) believe Buttner is one of the best left backs in Europe. I’m sure he’ll be nicknamed Nicky ( after Nicky Butt).

The other BIG Dutch signing by Sir Alex: Buttner…

Interesting developments in Eindhoven, where PSV coach Dick Advocaat lost his first game, as a result of a lacklustre performance, and drilled a thunderous response from his team in the second game. But PSV might lose two key players before the end of the month, as Toivonen is put in the shop window and striker Matavz might go to Benfica. Good news for Wijnaldum if this happens, as the ex-Feyenoord talent will claim the number 10 position.

Ajax had an easy afternoon away at NEC, with the hosts gifting three goals in the first 30 minutes of the game. Impressive performances by some youngsters in the Ajax’ team (Ricardo van Rhijn, Mitchell Dijks’ debut) and a brace by new Swedish forward Sana.

Feyenoord and Joris Mathijsen look back at a disappointing debut together. Against Heerenveen, the ex-Hamburg defender got red-carded after a tackle in the area on the Heerenveen center forward. Despite Mathijsen playing the ball, the ref judged it to be a tackle on the legs of the opponent and gave Heerenveen a spot kick (and Joris a red). Earlier on in the game, the ref should have given Feyenoord a penalty kick for a blatant hand ball but didn’t. Ruben Schaken bulldozered his way through the Heerenveen defence in the last minutes and equalised so the match between mates Koeman – Van Basten ended in 1-1.

To quote my late friend Finnster: “A football player called Anita…??”

With PSV, Ajax, AZ and now Feyenoord dropping points, FC Twente leads the way as the only club with 6 points after two games. I saw all the top teams play this weekend and have to say: AZ looks REALLY good… They could won their game 9-0, with ease (only won 3-1 as it was). Altidore is a decent striker, he scores goals ( a brace this time) but misses a lot of opportunities as well. But so did Martens and Maher, to name two.

In Spain, excitement on day 1. Barca winning with Villa and Messi on target while Real Madrid ( sans Modric still) couldn’t get past Valencia. It’s game on there!

In Germany, Dutch goals. Luuk de Jong scoring against his own club in the European game vs Kiev… And Elia scoring for Werder Bremen last weekend.

In England, the first weekend is behind us and it does take some time for me to get used to Spurs without Modric, Van Persie in a ManU jersey and Liverpool without Kuyt. Everton doesn’t seem to miss Cahill and Drenthe, but I do… NY Red Bulls benefitted from Cahill’s goalscoring already and West Ham United apparently is out to sign Royston Drenthe.

Martin Jol’s Fulham and Newcastle (the new club of Vernon Anita) want to sign Twente’s Douglas while Assaidi received jersey number 11 at Liverpool.

All these movements will turn out for the best. Elia, Anita, Drenthe, Buttner…

I’m sure Oranje will benefit from all of this…

Elia in Bremen

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