Holland coach Marco Van Basten recently criticised Rafael Benitez’s handling of Ryan Babel, noting that the player had taken a step backward since his arrival at Anfield. A harsh assessment? Not if you look at the facts; and having examined the facts, Benitez’s truly appalling treatment of the player is depressingly clear.
Van Basten argued: “If you look at Ryan Babel, it is a mortal sin he now sits on the bench at Liverpool. He was playing well in Holland and for the Under-21s but now he has taken a step backwards.”
Babel cost £11.5m and inarguably has huge potential – the question is has he been given the chance to fulfil that potential?
The answer is resoundingly and unequivocally NO.
As we’ve all seen, Rafa loves his facts, so let’s consider some facts about Ryan Babel:
2007-08: Babel’s first season
Starts – 29
Subbed – 21 times
On the bench – 24 times
Unused sub – 4 games
Subbed or on the bench in 82% of games
Subbed in 72% of games started
Scored 11 goals. On 10 occasions, dropped to the bench for the next game.
Starts – 9
Subbed – 4 times
On the bench – 25 times
Unused sub – 6 times
Subbed or benched in 76% of games
Subbed in 44% of games started
Subbed – 25 times
On the bench – 49 times
Unused sub – 10 times
Subbed or on the bench in 84% of games
Subbed in 66% of starts
Taking into account unused sub status
In the squad 93 times
Subbed or on the bench in 90% games
With these figures in mind, consider the following questions:
1. Has Babel been given any kind of chance to establish himself at Liverpool?
2. Has he been allowed to flourish in any way?
3. Has he been allowed a consistent run of games *ever*?
4. Given the fact that in his first season, he was dropped to the bench TEN TIMES after scoring goals, has he been treated fairly in this respect?
5. Is there any justification for such treatment of the player?
The most important question for me is this: Do we want players to be treated this way at Liverpool FC?
The answer has to be no, yet some pigheaded fans just refuse to accept the truth that Rafa’s treatment of certain players over the years has been simply inexcusable.
Fans often seem to criticise Babel for his alleged lack of drive during his sporadic appearances, but how would you react when your manager has damaged your career, never given you a fair chance and made it abundantly clear that he has no faith in you?
Robbie Keane is another example of a player Benitez has treated in a similarly inexcusable manner: Keane was subbed or on the bench in 28 of his 33 appearances, which equates to 85% of games.
I’ve heard countless fans come up with the same ridiculous arguments: ‘Keane missed a few sitters so he deserved to be on the bench’; or ‘Keane did nothing when he was on the pitch’.
What a load of cretinous drivel.
For some reason, the ‘Rafa can do no wrong’ brigade are unwilling to accept that it is practically impossible for a player to get into any kind of rhythm/build understanding with team-mates/build confidence etc when subjected to the kind of treatment meted out to Keane, Babel, and before them, Peter Crouch.
Another pertinent point to consider: With Keane and Babel, Benitez has totally wasted over £30m of the club’s money.
And that’s not including salaries.
I have absolutely no doubt that if allowed to actually play consistently, both Keane and Babel could have been very effective players for the club. Instead, Benitez has subjected them both to career damaging periods of endless inactivity, for which there is no excuse.
This kind of treatment is one of the principal reasons I am not a fan of Benitez and his way of doing things. Treating players with such contempt (which is what it basically amounts to), does not fit with the philosophy of the club and – IMO – is not behaviour befitting a manager of Liverpool FC.
Fans might not care about the likes of Keane and Babel, but just watch them change their tune when one of their favourites starts suffering from the Benitez effect.
If Ryan Babel wants to save his career and actually progress as a player, he has only one option: leave Liverpool and go to a club where he will treated fairly and given a consistent chance to prove himself.
For any player, leaving Liverpool can only be a step down, but Benitez has made it unambiguously clear that he is NEVER going to give Babel a proper chance.
To stay at the club under the Benitez regime would be career suicide.