Liverpool: A Tribute To Dirk Kuyt Including His Top 5 Reds Goals
Football has seen many unfortunate cases of talented players failing to fulfil their true potential as they lack the mentality to succeed at the highest level, particularly in the modern day when the media and the internet play a much more prominent role than it did a decade ago.
However Dirk Kuyt was not one of those players, and his time on Merseyside will be looked back on with fond admiration from Liverpool fans. Whilst he wasn't the most technically gifted of players to have pulled on the famous red shirt, there is no doubt that the Dutchman made the absolute most of his ability, and has had a very successful six-year spell at Anfield since his £9m move from Feyernoord in 2006.
His debut against West Ham is perhaps the most fallacious of any Liverpool player in recent memory; every time he got the ball near the box he seemed to ignore his teammates and thump an effort towards goal - yet that performance was almost a polar opposite to his general style of play. He never managed to repeat his prolific goalscoring exploits during his time in Holland, but he still went on to become an integral part of Rafa Benitez’s side.
Kuyt wasn’t the type of player to wow the crowd with mazy dribbles or slice open the opposition defence with a long-range pass, but he was extremely effective; his tireless work-rate earned him the nickname ‘The Duracell Bunny’, and his willingness to sacrifice personal achievements for the benefit of the team was a key reason why he was one of the first names on the teamsheet under Benitez, who persisted with him even when his form was perhaps not befitting of a starting spot every week.
His tireless work-rate earned him the nickname ‘The Duracell Bunny’
The Dutchman’s time at the club has long divided fans: his critics would bemoan his poor first touch and propensity to lose the ball which would stunt the teams attacking play, whilst his advocates would argue that he does the dirty work for his teammates and compared to other players at rival teams, statistically he was just as effective. Such arguments went on right up until his departure was confirmed this week.
Whilst his ability can be called in to question, his attitude cannot. Many players develop a strong bond to the city in which they play and the fans that populate it, yet few seem to have the genuine respect for the people and the city of Liverpool in the way that Dirk Kuyt does. His humility and philanthropy really resonated with the city – which has always been predominantly working-class – and even the little things, such as battling Jamie Carragher to be the last player off the pitch at full-time at Anfield after applauding the crowd when most players just walk straight off, really endeared him to the fans.
His charity, The Dirk Kuyt foundation, was set up to help disadvantaged children all over the world, and both he and his wife Gertrude play a pivotal role in the organisation and raising money not just for his own charity, but for others on Merseyside. One of his final acts as a Liverpool player was to arrange a charity match to raise money for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign as well as his own foundation.
Kuyt's debut against West Ham is perhaps the most fallacious of any Liverpool player in recent memory
His professionalism has been exemplary both on and off the pitch; both his managers and teammates have always spoken extremely highly of him, and Rafa even wrote a tribute to Dirk on his own website which puts this eulogy to shame. He was kept out of the team last season by the likes of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, all of whom struggled for form for large parts of the campaign, and a lot of players would have gone crying to the press about a lack of playing time - but not Kuyt. Instead he kept quiet, worked hard in training, and made the most of his opportunities, playing an integral part in Liverpool’s excellent cup runs.
It was entirely his own decision to leave the club, but nobody would deny him his move away. At 31, the lure of regular first-team football at Fenerbache, an established Champions League club, along with the last big pay day of his career was too much to turn down. His departure has been greeted with a sense of immense gratitude by Liverpool fans, but also a begrudging acceptance that this was probably the best time for both parties to move on.
It is testament to Kuyt’s ability that it was so difficult to narrow his achievements down to just five moments; he has scored so many vital goals for Liverpool, often late in games, that his strikes against the likes of Arsenal, Man City, Inter, Milan and Standard Liege – goals that would be the career highlight of many a player – didn’t make it on to the list. In fact, this whole piece could have just been me reminiscing about the big goals he scored - many of which I had the privilege of witness in person and were the catalyst to some incredible days out – but I managed to whittle it down to just five.
The banner unveiled in the away end at Swansea during the final game of the season said it best: Dirk Kuyt – Nice One, La!
Top Five Dirk Kuyt Moments
Everton (October 2007)
Kuyt’s incredible testicular fortitude was epitomised in this memorable derby at Goodison Park. After the Dutchman scored a first-half penalty to level the game, in second-half stoppage time Lucas Leiva’s shot was blocked on the line by Phil Neville’s arm and another penalty was given. Dirk stepped up to again beat Tim Howard from the spot and take the bragging rights - and all three points - back across Stanley Park.
Chelsea (April 2008)
Having scored the penalty to send Liverpool to the final of the Champions League – at Chelsea’s expense - the season before, Dirk was back to torment the Blues defence on Europe’s biggest stage. This was an archetypal Kuyt goal; after chasing down and winning back possession in the opposition half, he then made a bursting run in to the box to collect Javier Mascherano’s pass and prod the ball past an onrushing Peter Cech to give the Reds the lead.
Man Utd (March 2011)
Liverpool’s resurgence under Kenny Dalglish was typified by this performance - and Kuyt was one of the most improved performers under the legendary Scot. Having developed a strong understanding with Luis Suarez, Kuyt’s predatory instincts were on display as he netted his first ever hat-trick for the Reds; a tap in after a mazy run from his strike partner, a header after a mistake from Nani and a follow up from a parried Suarez free-kick saw the Kuyt take the match ball home and send the Anfield crowd in to a state of ecstasy.
Man Utd (January 2012)
In the wake of the Suarez/Evra saga, the already poisonous relationship between the two most successful clubs in the country was at its most volatile. With the Uruguayan serving an eight-match ban, the responsibility to score goals was on the rest of Liverpool’s goal-shy forwards. After coming off the bench in the second half, and with time running out and the daunting task of a replay at Old Trafford looking likely, Kuyt latched on to Andy Carroll’s flick on to rifle a half-volley past David De Gea and send the Reds through to the fifth-round.
Cardiff City (February 2012)
As with a lot of the 11/12 season, Kuyt only made the substitutes bench for the clubs first cup final for five years. After a defiant Cardiff side forced extra-time, ‘big game Dirk’ entered the fray and, with practically his first touch of the game, mishit a shot against a defender. Not to be deterred, he reacted first to clinically finish the rebound and put the Reds ahead. That, however, was not his only contribution to the game. After both Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam missed the first two penalties in the ensuing shootout, Kuyt needed to score for Liverpool to have any chance of turning it around. He did - of course - and the Reds secured their first trophy for six years, and his first winner’s medal on Merseyside.
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