When Fulham’s clash against Cardiff City on Saturday was goalless heading into the final 20 minutes, Ryan Babel unleashed a goal of the season contender to fire the Whites to a 1-0 victory.
The wonder strike blew the Craven Cottage faithful away, the Dutchman sweeping a venomous right-footed shot into the top left-hand corner from over 25 yards out.
The winner was the latest highlights of Babel’s superb uptick in form; the winger has scored four goals and registered one assist in his last six matches.
Fulham fans rejoiced at the brilliance of the former Liverpool player, but his success hints at what might have been if the Whites had invested in similar high-quality players in the winter transfer window.
His Premier League know-how, intelligent movement, searing pace, and excellent finishing skills have been a breath of fresh air in the beleaguered Fulham side.
But the Cottagers could not attract players of the requisite quality to complement Babel with defensive fortitude.
Fulham crucially won 4-2 over Brighton just days before the January transfer deadline day, boosting the squad with optimism. But the club failed to bring in adequate defensive reinforcements to mount a serious survival challenge.
A run of nine straight defeats followed, ending in relegation. But if the Cottagers had taken full advantage of January and attracted more players of Babel’s quality, their Premier League season could have ended very differently.