RAFA BENITEZ today urged Ryan Babel to maintain his focus and seize the chance he has been handed to resurrect his Liverpool career.
The enigmatic Holland forward looked at one stage as if he was going to leave Anfield during the transfer window and was the subject of a firm inquiry from Birmingham City.
His former club Ajax also explored the possibility of taking him back to Amsterdam on loan until the end of the season but both clubs were given the same response from Liverpool officials - Babel was not available.
He has, of course, endured a difficult month and clashed with Benitez after revealing on the social networking website Twitter that he had been dropped from the squad that played Stoke City on January 16.
But there was a sign last Saturday that relations between the two men had thawed, as Babel was given a cameo appearance in the win over Bolton Wanderers and he will again be involved in the squad for this weekend's Merseyside derby.
Now Benitez - who met with Babel and his agent Winnie Haatrecht at Melwood last week - hopes Babel can maintain a clear outlook to aid Liverpool's pursuit of a Champions League spot.
'When people talk too much about players maybe leaving and it then gets into the head of the player they are talking about, it is not easy,' said Benitez, who signed Babel in the summer of 2007.