Against all odds; the curious case of Ryan Babel.

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The trajectory of most football players career is usually in two parts;

The early developer( The players that reach their peak at a young age) and the late bloomer ( players that reach their peak late into their careers).

More often than not, a footballer is either an early developer or a late bloomer, it seems almost impossible that one player could have both traits, right? Think again.

The player in question here is Ryan Babel.

a product of the illustrious Ajax academy where he looked like he could be the next big thing, which caught the eye of some of the biggest clubs in Europe.


Nigerians in particular might remember him from the 2005 U-20 World cup as he was part of the Netherlands team that lost to the flying eagles via penalty shootout, a tournament in which he scored twice in four games.

Early Developer

His stock continued to rise and after scoring 14 times in over 70 appearances for Ajax, the winger was snapped up in 2007 by Rafael Benítez’s Liverpool for £11.5m.

That seemed to be the height of his career though as he failed to secure a regular spot in the side under three different managers in four years at the Merseyside club which led to his exit.

Second chance? NO!!!

On 25 January 2011, it was confirmed that Babel had left Liverpool to join German side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim for a reported fee of £8 million, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal and many thought it was a chance to get a promising career back on the road, but it wasn’t to be as he left after just a season which he scored 5 goals in 46 appearances.

No place like home

After personally buying off the remaining year of his contract with Hoffenheim, he returned to his old club Ajax on a one-year deal. Wearing shirt number 49, the same number he wore when he made his first ever appearance for the first team at Ajax.

His season was however distorted by injury and he ended up playing just 16 times and scoring 4 goals before opting not to extend his contract and leaving Ajax again.


The next three years saw him have largely underwhelming spells at Kasimpasa, Al Ain and Deportivo La Coruna and at this point the footballing world had basically forgotten about him.

The general perception amongst those that did remember him was that he’s a washed up 29-year old that peaked way too early and could have been more if he was properly handled.

7th heaven

In 2017 he signed for Besiktas in Turkey, his 7th professional club, and that is where things finally clicked for him.

His brilliant performances coupled with 22 goals in 62 appearances over a year helped secure Besiktas the Turkish league title and drew the attention of the footballing world back to him.

Comeback king

Babel was recalled to the Dutch national team after an 8-year absence and his form also earned him a return to the English premier league when Fulham singed him on a short term contract last season where he scored 5 goals in 14 appearances.

Late bloomer

Ryan Babel’s turbulent career trajectory is one you don’t see in a lot of players, he’s gone from a promising 20-year old to a finished 29-year old and is now currently a key player for his club and country aged 32.

He is currently based in Turkey again as he joined the current champions, Galatasaray on a 3-year deal last summer, and he’s already hit the ground running with 2 goals in his first 3 games.

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