18 January 2011

On Ryan Babel and Bad Transfers

Liverpool have confirmed that they've accepted a bid from Hoffenheim for Ryan Babel. Media reports put the fee at €7m, or £5.8m, which is almost exactly 50% of what Liverpool paid for the winger/striker/professional Tweeter in the summer of 2007. The deal's not done yet – Babel still has to agree personal terms – but I expect we're past the point of no return.

I've little desire to rehash his term at Liverpool. His first season was his best, and he had some moments of brilliance throughout his tenure – including an undeniably important cameo in the Champions League quarterfinal against Arsenal – but disappointed more often than not. I had hoped he'd turned a corner last spring. Babel rarely got a consistent run of games, but always looked more impressive as a substitute, and Liverpool's last three managers have had little use for the player since that 2007-08 season.

So instead of a requiem, I'd like to do a poll.

Friend of the blog Mike Georger (you had better be reading Avoiding The Drop regularly) suggested that Babel was one of the worst five transfers in club history. It's a valid argument to make; only six players cost more: Torres, Keane, Mascherano, Johnson, Aquilani, and Cisse. Babel came with immense hype, looked to be a huge signing for the future, and could have put Liverpool over the top in 2008-09 if he performed to his potential. As Georger argued on Twitter, Liverpool has badly needed a winger for ages, and Babel was supposed to be the solution to that long-standing problem. For the cost and the need, situationally, the transfer was a huge flop.

But I'm still unconvinced. Liverpool have had more than a few questionable deals in the past decade, let alone in club history. So I thought I'd open this debate up to the general population.

My memory gets worse every day, so I'm limiting these choices to transfers in since Houllier. Please pick five. All fees (and links to player profiles) taken from the indispensable LFCHistory.net.

Your choices are:

El Hadji Diouf: Bought £10m, Sold £3.5m
• Salif Diao: Bought £4.7m, Sold Free
Christian Ziege: Bought £5.5m, Sold £4m
Djibril Cisse: Bought £14.5m, Sold £6m
Jermaine Pennant: Bought £6.7m, Sold: Free
Ryan Babel: Bought £11.5m, Sold £5.8m
Philipp Degen: Bought Free, Sold Free
• Robbie Keane: Bought £19m, Sold £16m
Alberto Aquilani: Bought £17.1m, Sold £13m if Juve take option
Christian Poulsen: Bought £4.5m, Sold Not Yet

I encourage you to comment to explain your choices or suggest any that I forgot. I'll try to remember to do a wrap-up post for this poll in a few days with a vote total and my choices.


Andrew Hill said...

Have we forgotten about Meireles? Didn't he cost more than Babel?

nate said...

Meireles cost the same amount. Probably should have mentioned that fact, but it doesn't change the statement that only six players cost more than Babel.

Marlon said...

How much was Mark Gonzalez?

nate said...

LFC History says Gonzo cost £1.5m initially, and I don't think he was at Liverpool long enough to see that fee go up substantially. He was sold for £3.5m.

Tobin said...

Maybe just my opinion, but I think Dossena should at least be an option.

Shaun Loh said...

where is bruno cheyrou? the supposed next zidane?

Noel said...

Some sterling options up there, but most were either forgettable or made back most of what was paid for them. I suspect I'd go with Diouf for very obvious bad transfer reasons, but second spot for me is likely against the consensus: Aquilani.

Losing money on players who didn't work out is one thing, but essentially paying £4-5M for the privilege of getting him healthy for Juventus is just a different sort of "bad transfer" completely.

Babel might be third, but it's crowded back there.

Anonymous said...

I think Babel is the most disappointing for me because he has the natural ability to make an impact. I used to think Rafa had a personal problem with him, but even Roy and Kenny didn't rate him. We could have used his pace and dribbling abilites on the left-wing.

Earl said...

Totally agree with Noel about Aquilani. Did he just want to go home or did they really give up on him?

I was a Babel apologist so I admittedly know nothing. I realize its time to cut bait with him for any number of reasons. Still its disappointing. A guy where the whole is somehow less than sum of the parts.

Hectorious said...

The season has yet to end, but my top vote would be for Paul Konchesky.

A 29 year old journeyman mid-table left back who cost the club 3-4 million pounds AND two prospects, one of which was considered to be one of the brightest in the reserves. There is no guarantee that Dalla Valle or Kacaniklic would have broken through to the first XI, but at least with some more years under their belt they could have been used as backups or more worthwhile transfers.

In addition to the transfer cost, his arrival quickly brought about the departure of a promising young left back in Insua to Galatasaray on loan after a month of failed sale negotiations.

Six months into the season, we've seen a CB combo (Agger, Kelly), a converted right back (Johnson), and there are rumors of a possible loan return for a former youth player in Stephen Warnock to plug the hole at LB when Aurelio is not fit.

I believe Fabio Aurelio is the first choice LB, but his constant injuries & fitness issues have made it clear a reliable deputy is needed. That position has not been secured with the Konchesky debacle.

Brink said...

Diouf is an easy selection. Poor return on investment.

I'm surprised more people didn't vote for Aquilani. Noel said it well. I can't believe we paid so much for an injured player, then get him healthy in time to sell him at a discounted price.

I don't mind the Robbie Keane deal. He was in top form when we bought him. When it was clear that it wasn't working, we quickly cut our losses and moved on.

I also don't mind Babel. What I DO mind is a manager insisting that he be a winger when he clearly is not. All of his ability is aimed at attacking the goal.

drew said...

Diouf is #1 for sure. What a cunt.

I have Diao as my #2, representing everything that went wrong with Houllier's reign. Diouf was part of that too, obviously, but Diao did somehow even less than him, absolutely nothing beyond allowing Liverpool fans to appreciate exactly how good Xabi Alonso was once Benitez arrived. Houllier's fetish for "athletic" (read: poorly trained) African-French players totally undid all the good work leading up to the treble year, and moreover left Benitez absolutely hobbled for squad players and far off the pace of United, Arsenal, and upstart Chelsea. (Really, it's so utterly predictable that for al their whining about the "mess" Roy was left by Rafa, none of the press ever think to mention the shambles Rafa was left by GH.)

#3 is the would-be replacement for Alonso, Aquilani. He is obviously a player of consummate skill, but it was the wrong time. The more his injury dragged on, the less of a hearing he would receive once he did make the teamsheet—his performances were generally excellent and there's no reason to think he wouldn't have carried on this year, but we fucked that up with one of the most asinine loan deals I've ever seen agreed. Appalling business.

Fourth and fifth are Hodgson's enduring legacy, Konchesky and Poulsen. I admit to having hopes that Konchesky could come in a do a solid if unspectacular job, a la Stevie Finnan. It didn't work out, and thankfully we can shuffle him on soon. Totally incapable of playing seemingly any style of football, his greatest contribution to any Liverpool match will remain his fluke goal in the cup final that made Stevie's thunderbolt necessary.

Poulsen is past it. End of. Any amount, even wages alone, would have been too much. (And to think that Purslow wanted rid of Lucas! Thank God that got nipped early enough.)

Since Konchesky wasn't an option, I voted Babel as the other one. Agree on the wasted opportunity there, more frustrating still was occasional moment of sublime skill that would almost, almost make it seem worth keeping him around. But it's not. I won't miss him.

nate said...

Guess I should have made a 12-player list and included Konchesky and Dossena. Or not included Ziege, who very few have voted for. I just couldn't forget the deal ended up costing Liverpool an extra £20,000 in fines for a player who did less than zero during the year he was here.

psm said...


I don't care how much he cost. I have never seen a player drop in form so badly and what was frustrating is how many chances he was given. so forget the rest. If you agree say so!

Anonymous said...

Konchesky !?Anyone?!

Ómar Ó'Magi frá Torfgarði said...

I would have had Konchesky ahead of Degen, who cost nothing. There's a question about Cheyrou to round up Houllier's 2002 transfer flops, but I can't bring myself to pick Aquilani. Of course it's bad transfer if he goes to Juve for 13m, but still ... The worst transfer in recent history has to be Alonso to Real, that has undermined the team's progress more than anyone could ever have imagined. But not from economic perspective of course!