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FRIDAY WITH… RYAN BABEL

Hi Ryan, first of all I’d like to say welcome to the UAE! The whole nation is excited by your move to Al-Ain, especially Al-Ain fans themselves; known for greeting and treating their players with unrivaled passion and a family feel.What are your thoughts on the fans and what do you want to bring to them?

Ryan: I hope to bring the Al-Ain fans a lot of joy and hopefully I will be part of something great this season.

With more than 50 European games on your record you now land in Asia. What are your initial thoughts on the competition, with Al-Ain coming so close to the Final in the last season?

Its exciting that you have a whole different scene going on out here in Asia, we don’t get to much info from this side of the world so obviously lots of people are having different opinions on me playing in the Asian Champions League and Middle East now.

READ MORE: How Zlatko Dalic reformed a broken Al-Ain

What do you think of the Hazza Bin Zayed stadium? It won the StadiumDB ‘Stadium of the Year’ based on a number of different factors, and now you get to play in it on regular basis.

Yeah, first of all I have been to it only once but my first impression was very good. It looks like the stadium of a real champion, which of course Al-Ain are.

Fellow former Premier League players such as Denilson, Luis Jimenez and former European-based players in the mould of Mirko Vucinic will be in the same league as you. The foreigners take the torch and lead the rest with their talent, experience and knowledge of the game. Is this something you are willing to pass on?

Yes hopefully I can give my best and will be looking to give a different dimension to the league with my game and style of play.

And now, you will be lining alongside Emmanuel Emenike and Felipe Bastos as newcomers, how do these guys and yourself combine to help each other adapt? And what about Lee, who’s been here for a year? How does his experience here help you get on?

I think all good players are able to and will help the team to reach a higher level of play, and I think its great to see that players from different continents are able to bundle all their strength for one goal – a common thing in world football today.

Babel joins Lee Myung-Joo, Emmanuel Emenike and Felipe Bastos as the 'Fantastic Four'.

Babel joins Lee Myung-Joo, Emmanuel Emenike and Felipe Bastos as the ‘Fantastic Four’.

What is your opinion on the growth of the Turkish League? More and more high-profile players are moving there too. And what was your experience at Kasimpasa like?

The Turkish league is a very nice league to play in, although I still believe that it is still in development but I had a good time there with Kasimpasa.

A couple of Liverpool questions now. What was your best moment in an LFC shirt?

My best moment was scoring against Arsenal in front of the Kop in the Champions League, for sure.

What do you think of Steven Gerrard’s departure and how could you describe him as a teammate?

Stevie G is a great person and captain to work with, he has been very important to my career and still believe he is. I understood his departure as he wanted to play for Liverpool every week.

Moving on, you’ve probably heard of Omar Abdulrahman before you arrived, the man to be by your side in attacking midfield next season. It’s usually the case of linking with foreign players, but what do you think of the little magician who is sought out by teams across the world?

It’s always good for an offensive player to play with a magician like Omar who can help you to play better. I think he’s able to provide me with lots of goalscoring chances this season which I hope to benefit from!

You’ve now played in England, Germany, Netherlands and Turkey. Was it always your career goal to try and get the best of different countries?

To be honest, no not really, but I did realize that you can’t really plan out your career in to how you want it to be. So at any stage of your career you need to try and make the right decision.

What significance does the number #49 shirt have, the number you first wore at Ajax and now take up at Al-Ain?

Number 19 is my first number that was taken at youth level although then it became number 49, which is always special to me as it was my first professional football number.

Babel

Top Right, Bottom Left: Babel with his #49 shirt Top Left: Babel arrives in Al-Ain | Bottom Right: Babel with the AGL Trophy

How was the reception from the board, your manager and teammates?

It was good to meet the people from the club, I am now in the process of getting to know everybody at the club which takes a bit of time.

You have come at a very tough time of the year, the hottest time and during the Holy Month of Ramadan. How has it been adapting to your surroundings in such short time with the league beginning in a month?

To be honest I am pretty flexible and I respect this time of the year for people engaging in the fast during Ramadan. I have lots of friends back home who are doing that so I understand the importance of this matter.

Finally, do you have any special message for the Al-Ain fans – who are passionately dubbed as the ‘Ainawi’?

I know in general that European players will come here with a state of mind that they are being on holiday and playing their last years of their career here but this is not in my mentality and I am far from finished yet… I am still ambitious to strive for success and I will  be giving my all for this club, my team mates and the fans… I hope to achieve great things in my time here.

About Hamoudi

The man behind the idea of Ahdaaf.me. Based in Dubai, Hamoudi will bring you an unprecedented level of coverage of the Alfa Lebanese League in English as well as the best of the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League. With dreams of working in the coaching industry in the near future, don’t be surprised by the amount of tactical analysis that he works on to bring in a modern day feel to the very scarce analysis on Middle Eastern Football. (PS: Beware of his rants about the ignominious status of football in his native country Lebanon…).

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