Babel heads for exit after Liverpool accept £5.9m bid

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The Independent Online

Ryan Babel is set to join German club Hoffenheim after Liverpool accepted their bid for the Dutch international yesterday. Reports emerged in German newspaper Bild that a €7m (£5.9m) fee had been agreed, a fact that Liverpool confirmed yesterday afternoon and said that the Dutch forward had travelled to Germany to discuss personal terms.

Bild had earlier quoted Hoffenheim's main financial backer, Dietmar Hopp, as saying that the club were in an "emergency situation" owing to the probable departure of striker Demba Ba and an injury to Chinedu Obasi. "Babel was one of the preferred candidates who our manager, Ernst Tanner, was most convinced by," Hopp said.

Should Babel join Hoffenheim, he would be the first player from the Liverpool first-team squad to depart since the various changes to the club hierarchy in recent months. In October last year, the club was bought by New England Sports Ventures, and is now run by John W Henry and Tom Werner. They appointed Damien Comolli as director of football strategy in November and replaced Roy Hodgson with Kenny Dalglish as manager earlier this month.

Henry was in Liverpool for Sunday's Merseyside derby and he discussed signings with Dalglish. The club have been watching Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez, currently atBabel's former club Ajax.

Babel was signed by Liverpool from Ajax for £11.5m under the management of Rafael Benitez in July 2007, having impressed in the European Under-21 Championship that summer. In three and a half seasons at Anfield, he scored 21 goals in 142 appearances, 65 of them from the start. He was this week fined £10,000 by the Football Association for posting a doctored picture on Twitter of referee Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt. This was the second time he had been in trouble as a result of comments posted on the website; last year he was fined two weeks' wages by Benitez for announcing that he had been dropped for a game against Stoke City.

The Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has said he wants to see Dalglish continue as manager beyond this season. "I want to do everything in my power to ensure that he stays here for a long time, beyond the initial six months. I'd love nothing better when the end of the season comes than for us to be on the back of a good run of results that ensures he gets the job full-time."



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