One of the most likeable and underrated Reds of all time bid a farewell to game on Sunday. Dirk Kuyt was awarded a testimonial at his beloved De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, as thousands turned out to celebrate the man.
The sheer number of stellar names on display also says a lot about how universally popular Kuyt was amongst his fellow pros. Former Reds, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Carragher and Jerzy Dudek made their way over to The Netherlands for a kick about, as did a whole host of former Dutch greats. It is a testament to his playing career, which touched great heights, even if the man himself was underappreciated by many.
Sighed in 2006 for around £10 million, Dirk was hardly greeted with universal fanfare by Liverpool fans. The Dutch League is always a bit of a gamble for Premier League clubs doing their scouting there, and we had just paid serious money for a man who drew blanks at the 2006 World Cup. Many thought we should be setting our sights a bit higher.
Within a few minutes of his debut as a sub against West Ham, it was clear we were all worrying about nothing. He was a marathon man, a ceaseless worker who would run through a brick wall for you and come out of the other side, looking for the ball and more work.
In age when the likes of Berbatov and Ronaldo had pundits purring, Kuyt appeared to be the antithesis of their kind. He lacked a yard of pace and was not as prolific as we had hoped; his first touch could be clumsy as times, but his sheer work rate and ability to arrive in the big games with big goals made us love him all the more.
An Anfield hat-trick against United, frequent goals against Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton, as well as vital contributions in some brilliant Champions League runs are all evidence of Kuyt’s big match mentality. Not all players have, plenty of technically more gifted players have represented Liverpool down the years and wilted under pressure, not our Dirk though. His performance in the 08/09 campaign was fantastic as he contributed all season with typical graft and a useful fifteen goals as we should have won the league with one of strongest Premier League era sides.
Versatile and deceptive
It is often overlooked that Dirk played most of his career for Liverpool on the right side of an attacking three behind a lone stroke. He also brought an all-round defensive approach to his game, working tirelessly in Liverpool’s well drilled counter attacking sides under Rafa benitez. When he did play up front, he seldom let anyone down, reaching double figures in all but one of his seasons at the club. The fact he did this playing second fiddle to Gerrard and Torres for most of his Liverpool career makes this even more impressive.
Kuyt’s ability on the ball, whilst always technically brilliant, was deceptively useful. He had the capacity to deliver a decent final ball from the right and hold the ball up when necessary. The fact he won over one hundred caps for The Netherland and played in a World Cup Final tells you a lot about how well thought of he was on the international scene.
His fitness and hard work on the pitch made him suitable for many different types of football throughout his career. As mentioned, he was ideal for Rafa’s countering sides of the noughties, and he adapted to form a brief, but effective partnership with Luis Suarez in the Uruguayans early days at Anfield. In fact, he could have probably done a job for Klopp, in a high pressing game that demands not only fitness and dedication, but also ability and end product. Dirk could offer you all of that.
It was a great shame that we let him leave through the back door in 2012 as Rodgers ushered in a new era. Yes his legs had done a lot of miles, but his experience, quality and professionalism could have been vital for Rodgers, in a way that Milner’s is now for Klopp. Who knows, if we’d hung on to him for two more years, that horrible game against Chelsea in 2014 could have ended differently, with a Dutch hero in the ranks, that would have been a more fitting end for such a fitting Red.
Nice one, Dirk! Enjoy a well earned rest.
This article was originally posted on Footie Blog #14
Editorial credit: Mitch Gunn / Shutterstock.com