For those who have been following me for a few years now, you could say that this interview has been a long time coming. For those who may be perplexed by my access to former Liverpool starlet and current Ajax Amsterdam player Ryan Babel, a primer: Back when I started following the English Premier League in 2008, Ryan Babel was one of the reasons why I chose to start supporting Liverpool. Out of my mixed ethnicities, Dutch is one of the more prominent makeups. As a promising young Dutchman with loads of pace and skill, Babel and his team at the time, Liverpool, caught my attention. I’ve been a passionate, but highly critical fan of both ever since.
After I started following him, Ryan would endure two more difficult seasons at Liverpool before being sold in January 2011, but through Twitter and YouTube, I remained an ardent supporter of his. I’ve always believed that Ryan was never properly handled at Liverpool—he signed at age 20, was thrown into the first-team, yet never played more than four games in a row for the club. And as he’ll attest to in the interview, he never got the same kind of attention and coaching he did at Ajax. How can a young player develop when their only playing time is 20 minutes as a substitute every other match, and they’re basically on their own development-wise?
Fed up with his lack of first-team minutes in a squad that featured bloody David Ngog at striker during all of Fernando Torres’ injuries, I threw this video out on YouTube demanding for Ryan to play. The success and feedback from that video is what actually propelled my channel to move towards European football and then exclusively Liverpool content. Ryan also appreciated the words of support.
That was over three years ago, when my hair was much longer and misshapen, and Ryan was still getting in trouble over a few humorous tweets. We’ve kept in contact here and there, and while I was traveling in Amsterdam one weekend, Ryan made himself available for an interview. We sat down for over an hour, reflecting on the good and bad of his Liverpool experience, the regretful transfer he made to a dysfunctional German club with Manchester City-like ambitions, and how at 26 years old, his career is starting to come full circle with a championship-winning season at his boyhood club Ajax.
Thanks to Ryan for accommodating my interview request, and for his honesty and humility about his past. Watch our chat below!
Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49