Liverpool’s failure to land Carlton Cole on transfer deadline day may prove to be a lucky escape for the Merseyside club, possibly paving the way for the hugely talented but much maligned Ryan Babel a final crack at Anfield superstardom.
Babel signed from Ajax in 2007 on the back of a successful Under 21 Euros win with the Netherlands (including a goal in the final).
He showed signs of being a real talent with an abundance of promise coupled with all the necessary skill required to produce in the Premiership; pace, skill, trickery and an eye for goal.
His potential was highlighted when he bagged 10 goals in his debut season of The Reds and picked up the LFC Young Player of the Year award in the progress.
The following season promised a lot; manager Rafael Benitez reassuring Babel that he would feature predominantly as a striker, his preferred position but sadly promises were broken and Babel made the majority of this appearance on the left of midfield, weighing in with a disappointing four goals for the season.
Again the following season Babel was assured of more time as a centre forward but again failed to materialise, this time bettering his previous season’s best with six goals but not eclipsing his debut season’s.
Liverpool’s lack of quality back-up for Torres and the failed transfer of West Ham‘s Cole has given Babel the opportunity to show the Anfield faithful that he is more than capable of cutting it among the league’s top strikers.
Sure it will take a few games for him to adapt back to his preferred role having played on the left for the best part of three years but Liverpool overlooking him as a striker is verging on stupidity. Especially given the current financial situation, the club are finding themselves chasing mediocre players (no disrespect to Carlton Cole) when they have the guts of a perfect Premiership striker already in the squad.
Should Roy Hodgson give Babel an extended run up front the club should be able to reap the rewards as he is almost certain to shine once he becomes suited to the role again. His cool strike against Trabzonspor demonstrates his quality in front of goal, be it against poor opposition yet he showed great composure to finish.
He may not be able to lead the line as well as Fernando Torres but he could provide great foil for the Spanish hitman, as two powerful, pacey centre forwards could terrorise the Premiership should they strike up a partnership. In an online poll, a massive 90.41% backed Babel to stay at Liverpool and make an impact, stating the fans’ desire to see him succeed in a Liverpool shirt.
This of course creates a selection dilemma for Hodgson of how to fit all the best players into the team and may warrant a change of formation. Still it is important; at the very least give Babel an extended run as a striker and give him a chance to prove himself before selling him and watching him perform in the role at another club, leaving the club kicking themselves over what could have been.