Where in the world has Ryan Babel been?
The black and white of Fulham beckons for Ryan Babel as he makes a surprise Premier League return.
Babel signed for Liverpool more than a decade ago and spent nearly four years with the Reds before being shipped out of Anfield by Kenny Dalglish in 2011.
Now the news of a return is sure to prompt a natural series of questions. Where on earth has he been? Why would he be any better this time around? And why is his hair red?
Originally signed from Ajax by Rafael Benitez, Babel landed in England having done enough in the Eredivisie to earn a spot in the Netherlands 2006 World Cup squad and a £14 million price tag.
He is often referred to as a ‘Liverpool flop’ but Babel bagged 22 goals in three-and-a-half seasons at Anfield, not a disastrous stat for a winger outshone by the brilliant Fernando Torres.
Here’s where it all started going wrong for the Dutchman.
After dropping down the pecking order for club and country he was sold to Hoffenheim where his goal return was poor, six goals in 51 games.
Life in Germany didn’t last long and after 18 months he bought himself out of his own contract in order to re-join boyhood club Ajax and wear the No. 49 shirt – the less said about that the better.
A single season back at Ajax brought him his first league title but the reunion was cut short when he upped and left for Turkish side Kasimpasa, where he remained for two years.
In 2015 Babel went rogue, opting to sign for Arabian Gulf League side Al-Ain – but reported disciplinary issues led to a fallout with the club and a short stay in the UAE.
Next stop La Liga. It turned out be another short stop on the European tour but Babel did manage to net four top-flight goals for Deportivo La Coruna before heading back to Turkey to sign for Besiktas.
Here’s where is started getting better again for the Dutchman.
Babel rediscovered some goalscoring form and became an important part of Besiktas’ 2016-17 title-winning team.
His good form continued into the 2017-18 campaign and he even earned himself a recall to the Netherlands team, for which he now boasts over 50 appearances.
At some point during all the success he must have got carried away, deciding to dye his hair bright red despite his international allegiance to the colour orange.
The bizarre hair saga and a 32-year-old set of legs was not enough to distract Fulham from his qualities as a footballer and so he returns to England on loan at Craven Cottage.
Fulham face an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League after the 2018-19 season and will hope they have found a saviour in the man that Marco Van Basten once described as: “The next Thierry Henry.”