Benitez challenges Babel to impress

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has challenged wantaway winger Ryan Babel to fight for his first-team place between now and the January transfer window.The 22-year-old has made 57 league appearances for the Merseysiders since arriving from Ajax in 2007.

However, the majority of his outings have been as a substitute, and with next summer's World Cup in South Africa on the horizon, the Dutchman is keen to establish himself as a first-team regular in order to maximise his chances of being picked for the global showpiece.

But having been allegedly promised more minutes this season, and starting the Reds' league opener in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, the wideman has only featured as a late replacement against Aston Villa since.

And as a result, Babel revealed that he would be willing to depart on loan in January - preferably to former club Ajax - in order to gain regular action ahead of the World Cup.

However, Benitez has reminded the Dutchman that he cannot go anywhere until the New Year, and should therefore knuckle down in the meantime and attempt to force his way into the first-team picture at Anfield.

“The message is very simple. On the pitch all of the players have to prove something,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“Ryan knows he cannot go now, so he has to impress.

“He is a good player and we know he has talent. It’s important for us to talk with him and see how he progresses over these months.

“With the World Cup at the end of the year the majority of our players will want to impress and if they do well in each training session they will have more chances.”