Ryan Babel out to ‘prove people wrong’ as former Liverpool forward targets ‘a lot of glory’ with Al Ain

Ryan Babel says his best is yet to come after the former Liverpool and Dutch international winger completed his move to Al Ain.

Ryan Babel, right, is presented as an Al Ain player and unveiled his shirt number. Ravindranath K / The National / July 2, 2015
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AL AIN // Ryan Babel says his best is yet to come after the former Liverpool and Netherlands international winger completed his move to Al Ain.

Babel, 28, was introduced to the media at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on Thursday night, having finalised his transfer from Kasimpasa, the Turkish Super Lig side. He agreed to a two-year contract, with an option to extend.

Babel, who rejected an approach from Besiktas in favour of Al Ain, is convinced he can become an integral part of the Arabian Gulf League champions, especially since he is entering what many consider to be a footballer’s peak years. His decision to spend those in the emergent UAE top flight has attracted criticism from outside the Emirates, but Babel says he has made the correct choice.

Asked if his best football possibly lies ahead, Babel said: “Definitely, definitely. I understand that a lot people in Europe are maybe sceptical about this move, but I’m a sensitive person, I choose based on my feeling and not what other people think. My feeling about Al Ain was very positive and if that wasn’t how I felt I would never have come here.


“For me personally, this is a challenge to prove many people from Europe wrong, that there is an idea behind the UAE league. I’m now here for a couple of days, but already you have a lot of people, specifically from Holland, being negative about this move. They don’t understand. I hope during the season I can, through social media, share a lot of glory with this team so that people can see it’s not what they think.”

Since hearing of Al Ain’s interest last month, Babel has used the internet to study the league and his new employers. The forward, who can operate across the front line but is expected to start on the left, referenced Asamoah Gyan and Omar Abdulrahman as players he is looking forward to playing alongside. Babel has chosen the No 49 shirt, the same number with which he made his professional debut at Ajax in 2004.

“I’m very pleased to be here; it’s an honour to join this team,” Babel said. “These past few weeks I did my research about the league and the team and I was very, very impressed, especially with the images and the clips I saw from last season, in celebrating the championship and everything.

“Once again, I’m honoured to be here and hopefully I can also be part of the success with this team and at the end of the season lift another trophy.

“Seeing the playing style, I can already see myself fitting in and being successful. It was not only the playing style, but the whole environment — the stadium, I see they have a lot of fans — and that made it the perfect choice.”

After his original stint with Ajax, Babel moved to Liverpool in 2007 but struggled to maintain a regular first-team spot. In three-and-a-half years in England, he made 146 appearances – 81 as a substitute – scoring 22 goals. He then transferred to Hoffenheim in Germany before returning to Ajax for a year. In 2013, he signed for Kasimpasa. In two seasons in Istanbul, Babel scored 14 goals in 58 league matches.

He says that experience will allow him to settle quickly at Al Ain.

“It helped a lot that I had two seasons before in Turkey, which is also a very different league and culture,” Babel said. “In Europe, it’s very difficult to follow this league so you have to do your research. The team has quality, a lot of potential and a lot of players who play for their national team, so all those things tell me it likes to compete and is competing – they have proved it over the years. That made the choice easier for me.”