Next summer’s World Cup is set to be held without two of the biggest megastars in the sport – Leo Messi and Ryan Babel.
Babel was such a precocious talent that a film featuring Brad Pitt was made about him at the age of 20 – with the attack on the bus in Morrocco in Babel symbolising how the Dutch winger was sure to take the world by storm.
After moving from Liverpool to Hoffenheim, Kasimpasa and Al Ain, Babel’s on-field success was matched by his off-field charm – famously telling a female Twitter user to “grow tits instead of speaking about football“.
As his career spiralled upwards, the Dutch national team stopped selecting Babel in 2011 as he was too good and far too hard-working for them.
He was recently recalled to the Dutch squad to inspire a heroic end to their qualifying campaign – but sadly the Netherlands now need to beat Sweden by seven goals to make the World Cup.
Russian organisers fear that without Babel’s star presence, ticket sales will be slow for matches at next summer’s tournament.
Leo Messi’s Argentina are also unlikely to qualify. Argentina is a country that is very far away.
Image courtesy of Paul Blank via Wikimedia Commons