I wished to join Arsenal ahead of Liverpool - but I don't regret my decision despite broken promises

Ryan Babel has admitted that he was unhappy during his Liverpool career, though he doesn’t regret his decision to join the Reds.

The Netherlands international moved to Anfield in an £11.5m from Ajax in the summer of 2007, and would end up making 146 appearances in three and a half seasons at the club. However, only 65 of those came from the start as his game-time gradually decreased throughout his spell on Merseyside.

Only 20 at the time of his move to Liverpool, Babel admits his Reds stint proved to be disappointing. Hinting at broken promises from the club, he revealed how he struggled mentally after making the move.

READ MORE: Every word of Jurgen Klopp's extraordinary answer as Liverpool boss goes off on TNT Sports

EXCLUSIVE: Fabio Carvalho makes blunt Liverpool future admission ahead of Jurgen Klopp exit and Arne Slot arrival

“It was a little bit disappointing for myself because when I eventually chose Liverpool,” he told the Athletic. “I was promised to get time and was told they would really work with me.

“But from day one, I was on my own, left to figure stuff out myself and that was very tough.

“I was 20 years of age, it was my first time living abroad, the first time living by myself because I was still at my parents’ home in Holland. So it was a lot of new challenges that I had to deal with at once. That made it very difficult.

“I had times where I felt unhappy, not completely myself or was anxious. I think now we live in an era where you want to support a player who is vulnerable. I came from a time when showing weakness was unacceptable. You would have been written off by some.”

Yet despite such struggles, Babel doesn’t actually regret making the move to Liverpool - even if he would have preferred to join Arsenal at the time.

“The rumours surrounding myself and Arsenal were exactly that; just rumours,” he exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzone. “We never actually spoke directly with the club, unfortunately, because that would've been my wish, naturally, as an Arsenal supporter.

“But at the same time, I've always been the kind of person who has made decisions based on how wanted I've felt, and Liverpool made me feel like they really wanted me. They made me feel important, and that's why I chose to sign for the club... it's not a decision I regret at all.

“Living by myself in a new country, with a different culture, took a lot of getting used to. But it was a really exciting time and I felt ready for the challenge.

“I learned a lot about myself, both on and off the pitch; I became a man at Liverpool; I developed a winning mentality, a certain attitude, and I understood what it took to win games at a big club, which is something I took with me further on in my career.

“I never felt like it was too much for me, joining up with that team. It was just a case of me proving to everyone that the move was justified.

“You know, I signed for £11.5 million, which was a lot, at the time. Nowadays, people would say that's peanuts, but back then it meant I had to earn my teammates' respect as soon as possible, and really try to fit in.

“It wasn't easy, but eventually I felt like I had enough respect that I was involved in many big moments with that team.”

He continued: “You know, coming into that Liverpool team at the time, it wasn't easy. The coach, Rafa Benitez, wasn't easy on us.

“I had to adapt to a new style and formation; I was used to playing 4-3-3 and now I had to play 4-4-2 which meant I had to do so much more defending than I was used to with Ajax.

“At Ajax, I was told I wasn't really needed defensively, they just wanted me up-front, but I moved to Liverpool and had to track back constantly, and it was drilled into me that I had to help my defenders.

“I had to learn all of that in a short space of time, and while there were lots of up and downs, I still managed to play almost four years for the club.”

“I'm a die hard Liverpool supporter today; I want to see them succeeding, I still have a good relationship with a lot of people in the club and I've never felt like they've forgotten about me and what I did for the club, even though maybe it wasn't as impactful as a, say, Fernando Torres, or Steven Gerrard.

“But I appreciate the people in and around that club so much because of the respect they have for me. You know, they don't have to respect me, but they do. It's a special club for me, and I'm proud to be involved in the Legends team nowadays.”

Babel admits there will be some that look back on his career and believe he didn’t live up to his early potential. However, he believes he did not get the guidance he needed to showcase the best of his abilities.

“It was a rocky journey, a lot of ups and downs, a career with many emotions,” he told the Athletic when looking back on his career. “In terms of the way I was introduced to the world, in terms of talent, in terms of potential, there’s definitely a majority of people who would say, ‘Oh, Ryan maybe didn’t fulfil his potential’. That’s the easiest judgement to make.

“However, I think some players need a different approach and a certain type of guidance. And I feel like there was a time when a certain type of guidance was very important to get the best out of me - and I didn’t receive it.

“That can have an effect on a player’s career. It did on mine.”