Ryan Babel Is A True Multifaceted Talent

Ryan Babel is a true multi-talent, on and off the park. After a difficult initial few months following his move from Liverpool last winter, the 24-year-old forward is now showing his true worth for 1899 Hoffenheim. Here's a closer look at the gifted Dutch international.

Babel was born in Amsterdam on December 19th 1986 and grew up in Bijlmermeer, one of the poorer quarters in the south-east of the city - not far from the world-famous Ajax football academy. For many of the neighbourhood youngsters, football offers one of the few escape routes from life in the high-rise housing estates.

As is the case with some 60 percent of the inhabitants of Bijlmermeer, Babel's family originally came from Suriname, the former Dutch colony on the northwest coast of South America. The 24-year-old forward has dual nationality but, like such distinguished predecessors as Ruud Gullit, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and Edgar Davids, opted to turn out at international level for the Netherlands.

After starting out as a youngster with SV Diemen and Fortius Amsterdam, Babel came to the notice of the Ajax scouts in 1998. From the age of eleven onwards he enjoyed the best possible training at the famed academy of the country's biggest club, developing into a versatile front-line player and was given his first professional contract at 18.

On November 20th 2004, Ajax head coach Ronald Koeman brought the then-17-year-old prospect off the bench against De Graafschap - and was promptly rewarded with a goal from the young debutant. By the end of the season, Babel had scored seven times in 20 outings and a star was born. In March 2005, his meteoric rise continued when national team coach Marco van Basten called him up for his international debut, against Romania - and once again Babel hit the net, becoming the youngest player to score for the Netherlands since 1937.

In 2007, after 72 games (14 goals) for Ajax, Babel seemed ready for the next step up the career ladder. English Premier League heavyweights Liverpool FC signed him up for 18 million euro, but the sojourn on Merseyside proved to be a largely disappointing one for the multifaceted talent. He went on to make 91 appearances (12 goals) for the five-time European champions, without ever establishing himself as a first-team regular. 1899 Hoffenheim scented an opportunity and enticed him away from Anfield Road at the end of the winter break last season.

Before moving there, Babel was more than likely less than 100 percent sure of exactly where Hoffenheim was to be found on the map. That notwithstanding, the Dutch international came through a not always straightforward period of acclimatisation and started to regain his form of old. Under the attack-orientated system of new coach Holger Stanislawski, he has considerable freedom to roam - and has made best use of it so far this season, with four goals in the opening seven games.

Capable of slotting in virtually across the line in the forward department, Babel possesses the added advantages of physical strength, good heading ability and above all a lightning turn of pace. The latter quality certainly appears to be a genetic one, as both his parents were competitive sprinters in days gone by. For good measure, a special programme aimed at strengthening the calf- and thigh muscles is part of the Hoffenheim training programme.

Away from football, Babel is a keen rapper. A few years ago, under his musical 'Rio' and together with his friends Darryl, Ali B. and Soumia, he released a single - Eeyeeyo - that went all the way to the top of the Dutch charts. He also has a keen ear for the hidden talents of his teammates and put a video online in April featuring then-team mate David Alaba's personalised rendition of Justin Bieber's 'Baby'.

While many professional footballers prefer to keep their private lives out of the limelight, Babel is very much a man of the Facebook generation. Besides his profile there, he also has his own YouTube account and more than 300,000 followers on Twitter. Alongside top-of-the-mornings greetings and thoughts for the day, those who so wish can keep track of when the Dutch star will be back from his yoga lesson.

Such a pro-active take on personal public relations can however occasionally backfire - such as on the occasion when, after Liverpool had lost 1-0 at Manchester United, Babel posted a photomontage of match referee Howard Webb in a United top on Twitter, earning himself a heft fine from the English FA. Nonetheless, honesty is a virtue as far as the Hoffenheim star striker is concerned: "I may not always say the right thing, but my heart is always in the right place." Source: Bundesliga

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