1.21.2008

Los Angeles Signs Celestine Babayaro

The Los Angeles Galaxy and new head coach Ruud Gullit are continuing their roster overhaul, reportedly signing former Chelsea and Newcastle left back Celestine Babayaro to a three-year deal.
Babayaro, 29, came to prominence on the world stage at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where his performance helped Nigeria capture the gold medal in men's football. Following a stint with Belgian club Anderlecht (1994-1997), Babayaro was purchased by Chelsea for £2.25 million and went on to appear in over 200 games for the Blues. In January of 2005, Babayaro moved on to Newcastle United. After 47 appearances, a series of injuries led to his release by the club, allowing Gullit and the Galaxy to swoop in and sign the Nigerian international.

The signing of Babayaro makes last week's trade of U.S. international fullback Chris Albright slightly more understandable. Albright was shipped to the New England Revolution in exchange for allocation money during Friday's MLS SuperDraft. Given LA's defensive woes in 2007, it didn't seem like a great idea to jettison one of their most proven backs.

...Of Note: Babayaro's unique approach to defending will instantly improve the Galaxy backline. He received a three-game ban in 2006 after admitting guilt to a charge of violent conduct in a match against Liverpool. Following a corner, Babayaro's arm or elbow apparently made contact with Dirk Kuyt, striking the forward in the face. Though the incident wasn't noticed by the official, it was caught on videotape, leading to the player's suspension.

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