Yeung shows bold intent with £8m bid for Babel

Birmingham look to build on strong start with offer that would allow Liverpool to enter transfer market
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The Independent Football

Birmingham City yesterday kicked off the January transfer sales with an £8m bid for Liverpool's Dutch winger Ryan Babel in the first indication that new owner Carson Yeung is ready to back his manager, Alex McLeish, with significant funds. Babel, 23, has been open about his disillusionment at Liverpool and is willing to move this month although the clubs are still some way off in their valuation of the player. Liverpool rate Babel at around £12m, having bought him from Ajax for £11.7m, and are unlikely to accept Birmingham's first bid.



Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, said on Friday that he was not planning to sell Babel although he will have to raise money if he is to buy players in this transfer window. Babel has never made the progress that was hoped for when Benitez took a gamble signing him in 2007. Babel is regarded as the most saleable asset that Liverpool can afford to let leave. While Benitez is not blessed with great depth in his squad, he does have cover in the left-sided positions. He desperately needs to sign a striker, possibly Roman Pavlyuchenko from Spurs, but in order to do so he will need to earn money from sales.

The offer for Babel demonstrates how serious the Birmingham ownership are about backing McLeish, whose team are eighth in the table after a run of seven wins and four draws in their last 11 league games. McLeish would like to strengthen the entire team but a left-sided player is one of his priorities.

It is a serious statement of intent from Yeung, who finally bought Birmingham in October, and now seems ready to back McLeish to push on for a Europa League place. The club have set their sights high in the transfer window, and are looking at the Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi, although his wages are well beyond what Birmingham would be prepared to pay. McLeish hopes to sign the Sporting Gijon midfielder Miguel Michel and has also expressed an interest in Charles N'Zogbia at Wigan.

The Birmingham manager said yesterday that the club could yet make a "marquee signing" this month. He said: "We won't rule out a marquee signing, if there is someone out there who I think can make a huge difference to this team. We would try if we could but, again, there has got to be a cut-off point. I still don't think we have to spend £20m, £40m or whatever was quoted at the time. I don't think there's any point in bringing players who are not as good as what we have. You don't progress doing that."

Babel has been disgruntled for some time about his lack of opportunities at Liverpool. He has never started consecutive Premier League games and last started a match against Manchester City on 21 November, in which he injured his ankle.

He joined in the summer of 2007 having played a starring role in the Netherlands' victory in the European Under-21s championships. Babel is halfway through the five-year contract with Liverpool he signed in 2007 and is unlikely to agree to a new deal.

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