What were they like? Liverpool remembers Babbel, Fowler impact ahead of showdown

Markus Babbel and Robbie Fowler both left their mark on the sprawling history of six-time European champions and Premier League giants Liverpool.

Almost two decades ago, the duo played side-by-side in one of the greatest Liverpool teams in modern history: the treble-winners of 2000/01.

On Saturday, the German defender and English striker will be opposing coaches for Hyundai A-League clubs Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.

Here’s how Babbel and Fowler are remembered by some of English football’s most knowledgeable journalists.

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Babbel ‘ran the game’ from fullback

One current Liverpool and England sensation comes to mind for Paul Joyce (The Times) when asked to recall what Babbel was like for the Merseysiders.

“For a spell he [Babbel] was a little bit like Trent [Alexander-Arnold] in a way,” Joyce said.

“Like Trent is now he just had a massive influence on the way the team played, I just remember him getting forward from right-back and scoring important goals.

“He ran the game in a way from the full-back position which is obviously a very difficult thing to do.”

Trent Alexander Arnold
Babbel 'ran the game' from fullback like current Liverpool and England star Trent Alexander-Arnold


Joyce added that he found Fowler’s ambitious hunt of the Brisbane job compelling.

“I don’t think when he started out that he was one you thought would be a natural person to go into [management],” Joyce said.

“He wrote to a lot of clubs in England and got a lot of rejections; I think he found that quite frustrating.

“I think to be prepared to go over to Australia halfway across the world and leave his family behind shows his commitment really.

“It would have been easy for him to stay in Liverpool, work at Liverpool, go into punditry, but the fact he’s wanted to test himself and that he’s had to go over to Australia hopefully means if he does well there’s an opportunity for him back in England.”

REVEALED: Markus Babbel's Wanderers tattoo

One of Liverpool’s forgotten superstars

Sachin Nakrani (The Guardian) believes Babbel’s effort’s in Liverpool’s 2000/01 treble-winning season alone should be enough to write his name onto the storied list of Liverpool’s legends.

“He was remarkable in that treble year, a hugely influential figure in the season,” Nakrani said.

“A free transfer from Bayern Munich as well, so in terms of value for money he’s exceptional.

“It’s very sad it ended so soon, but in that season, he was incredibly consistent.

“He’s one of Liverpool’s forgotten superstars, in a way.”

One Liverpool superstar that is impossible to forget however is Brisbane boss Fowler, who Nakrani says had all the potential to become the club’s greatest ever marksman.

“He’s probably still my favourite Liverpool striker,” Nakrani said.

“We’ve had better ones arguably with the likes of [Fernando] Torres and [Luis] Suarez, but he’s still my favourite.

“It was just a constant stream of goals; when he was at his best from 1994 to 1996/97 he seemed to score every week, I’m not sure Liverpool have had a striker like that since then.”

Robbie Fowler
Fowler: still Nakrani's favourite Liverpool striker, from a strong field of candidates

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‘Similar to Xabi Alonso’

Steven Scragg (These Football Times) likens Babbel to former Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Germany star Xabi Alonso.

Known for his midfield composure, technical ability and on-field intelligence, Alonso lit up the football world through the 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s, and Scragg believes these shared qualities in Babbel make him well tailored to life as a coach.

“I’m not saying Robbie’s not got that but I just think Babbel... he looked absolutely comfortable anywhere he played.

“He’s similar to Xabi Alonso for me; he’s one of those thinking-type footballers.

“I think Fowler for me was a natural reactor, I don’t want a reactor on the bench, I want a thinker.”

Marcus Babbel
Babbel: A 'thinker', in the words of Steven Scragg


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Good cop, bad cop

When posed the question of who he’d prefer as a future Liverpool boss out of Babbel and Fowler, Matt Ladson (This is Anfield) couldn’t pick them apart.

So why not have both?

“If I was going to pick one of them to be our manager maybe we’ll keep with the German legacy and go Markus Babbel with Robbie as his assistant, maybe?” Ladson said.

“Might be a good cop, bad cop; one of them has got the local knowledge and know-how and charisma, and then the other one has maybe got a bit more of an analytical brain and following Jurgen (Klopp)’s footsteps.”

Liverpool fans reminisce on greatest Fowler goals

They have a plethora to select from, but when local Liverpool fans were asked to choose Fowler’s best ever Liverpool goal a select few sprung to mind.

“I remember him scoring his first hat-trick, the fastest hat-trick at the time I think it was in the Premier League,” Ray from Warrington said.

Ray’s daughter Katie had a different opinion to her old man on which of Fowler’s goals was his best.

“I was quite young, but I would say the one against United when he put Gary Neville on his backside.”

One fan can trace his memory back to a day in 1999 when Liverpool romped Southampton 7-1 to recount his favourite Fowler goal.

Brisbane Roar boss Robbie Fowler
'Possibly the best English goalscorer in the last 60 years'

“I think it was one against Southampton, we won 7-1 I think it was,” he said.

“He basically put the entire Southampton defence on the floor in one move; that was about 1999.

“To me Robbie Fowler was possibly the best English goal scorer in the last 60 years other than possibly Jimmy Greaves who used to play for Chelsea and Tottenham.”

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