Former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel has been recalled to the Netherlands squad for the first time in six years after hitting form for Besiktas in the Champions League.
Babel, who made 91 Premier League appearances for Liverpool after signing in 2007, has not featured in the international squad since playing for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim in 2011.
The 30-year-old had spells at Kasimpasa, Al Ain and Deportivo de La Coruna thereafter and has revitalised his career since joining Besiktas in January 2017.
His return to the Netherlands team comes after the winger’s goals in Besiktas’ last two Champions League matches – a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday and a 3-1 away win at Porto on September 13.
In total, Babel has scored five goals in nine games this season, and that form has proven too hard for Netherlands boss Dick Advocaat to ignore.
The Dutchman will be hoping to add to his 42 caps and five goals in two must-win World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Sweden.
“He has earned a right to a place in the squad,” said Advocaat, who has dropped Wesley Sneijder, the country’s most-capped player, and is without injured Quincy Promes, Robin van Persie and Bruno Martins Indi for the matches in Borisov on Oct. 7 and home to Sweden three days later.
Advocaat said on the upcoming games: “We must first plainly go there to win and then see what is possible during the match. You can’t start international matches these days with a goal target in your head.”
With France’s progression to the World Cup almost guaranteed, the Netherlands will battle Sweden for the play-off spot, making their clash as a winner takes all affair.