DUTCH wonderboy Ryan Babel is poised to become Liverpool’s second big-name summer signing for £13.5million.
The Kop had an initial bid of £10million knocked back by Ajax — but they returned with an improved offer last night.
And Ajax chiefs have admitted the left winger, 20, will be packing his bags for Merseyside.
The signing would take boss Rafa Benitez’s spending to almost £35m in less than a week after the club record capture of Atletico Madrid hitman Fernando Torres.
Ajax’s technical director Martin van Geel said: “Liverpool are very serious about signing Babel and have made an offer a lot higher than before. Because they want him so much, I think we will lose him.”
Babel’s agent Winnie Haatrecht admitted: “I can confirm that Ajax have received an official offer from Liverpool.”
Babel is the hottest young prospect in Holland and was likened to Thierry Henry by Ajax coach Ten Cate.
It is a comparison Babel is more than happy to live with. He added: “Physically our bodies are similar and I think our way of playing and priorities on the pitch are alike.
“Just like Henry, I like to come inside from the left so when you look at it there are similarities.”
Benitez has already recouped the Torres money by selling Djibril Cisse to Marseille, Craig Bellamy to West Ham, Mark Gonalez to Real Betis and Luis Garcia to Atletico Madrid.
That has put him back in the market for another top-level signing — and he wants the Babel deal done as quickly as possible.
Babel is still on holiday in Surinam after helping Holland’s Under-21s win the European Championships. Yet he has made no secret of his desire to play in the Premier League and is convinced he can prove a smash hit.
Babel, who has also been interesting Arsenal, admitted: “Of course I’m ready but if the time is right or it’s the right club is another matter.
“I’m still learning a lot at Ajax and they’re a fantastic club. I’m still young and not in a hurry.
“We’ll see what happens but for sure I want to play in the Premier League and again it’s only a question of when.”
Benitez is also still keen on signing West Ham’s Yossi Benayoun. The stumbling block there is the Hammers’ insistence on around £6million for the Israeli midfielder — nearly double what Liverpool have so far offered.