Thursday, August 1 – 2002
Markus Babbel has vowed to repay Gerard Houllier’s unstinting faith in him by bringing silverware back to Liverpool this season. The Germany defender made an emotional reappearance in front of the Kop against Lazio on Tuesday following his year-long battle to overcome the debilitating effects of the life-threatening Guillain Barre Syndrome.
Babbel’s return to Anfield in the 1-0 defeat came just six months after he was confined to a wheelchair, and it was hailed as a “fairytale” by Houllier, who has also dubbed the 29-year old his “miracle man.”
Houllier remained in touch with Babbel throughout his nightmare ordeal despite his own battle for health following heart surgery, and now the former Bayern Munchen star is anxious to honour the debt he feels he owes Liverpool.
Babbel, who played a major part in Liverpool’s unprecedented haul of five trophies inside six whirlwind months in 2001, has now sat his sights on restocking the Anfield trophy cabinet.
“I am determined to repay the club and the manager,” said Babbel, whose last appearance on home turf came against West Ham last August.
“The best way to do that is to play to the best of my ability and help them win trophies. I will be giving everything to do that for them.”
Babbel admitted there was a tear in his eye as he received a rapturous ovation from a packed ground, and afterwards revealed the torment he went through to relaunch his stalled career.
“Last season was a very bad time for me,” he said. “I was very, very ill. Nobody could tell me at the time if I would be able to come back and resume my career.
“If you have an injury, you have a good idea when you will be back and you can look forward to that but I was not in that position. I had heard of some people who had made full recoveries and others who had not. I just have to thank the gods that I have come through it and now I am ready for the new season.
“It has been nearly a year but I never gave up. I was never put under any pressure by the club so there really was no rush for me to return, but I was determined to come back.
“I have worked very hard for this. All summer I have been working on my rehabilitation and improving my fitness. They thought it would take longer to get my fitness back but I am doing everything I can.”
Babbel will continue his quest for match fitness in Spain at the weekend when Liverpool take part in Real Madrid’s Centenary Tournament.
He will be joined on the trip by England duo Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey, who both missed the Lazio defeat with thigh and hamstring problems respectively.
Gerrard has been given the all-clear to take part in the competition which also features AC Milan and Bayern Munchen, after being sent for a precautionary scan.
“Steven may be OK to play in our second game in Madrid, but he will certainly be fit for the Community Shield against Arsenal the following weekend,” said Houllier.
Striker Jari Litmanen, whose move to former club Ajax collapsed, will be out for a month after damaging his knee cap.
Houllier has revealed hos he recruited Lille midfielder Bruno Cheyrou from under the nose of new French coach Jacques Santini.
Santini, who steered Lyon to the French championship last season tried to hijack the deal by offering £2,5 million more than the £4m Liverpool paid.
Lille stood firm, however, and Houllier said: :I must compliment their chairman because he was outstanding and kept his word.”
(Daily Express, 01-08-2001)