Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt established himself as somewhat of a cult hero at Anfield. His tireless work ethic was appreciated by the masses and his instinctive ability to score goals solidified an internal legacy, but is he valued sufficiently enough by those outside Holland and Liverpool?
Let’s not forget that Kuyt was an integral figure in the Dutch National Team’s that finished runners-up in the 2010 World Cup and third-place in the 2014 World Cup. He’s a man who scored over 300 career goals and won silverware at four of the five clubs he represented.
Kuyt was rightfully perceived as a straightforward type of player. He would rarely be seen performing incessant step overs or attempting audacious tricks to outwit his opponents. But his exemplification of sheer simplicity on the football pitch is what intrigued spectators.
He sacrificed individual fame for the good of the team and applied himself in each and every match. His selflessness was displayed more greatly than ever when he played in a number of different positions during the 2014 World Cup under Louis Van Gaal.
In 2017, Kuyt befittingly announced his retirement from professional football with remarkably his first ever Dutch Eredivisie title. He’d returned to his former club Feyenoord to conclude his career and guided them to glory with 15 goals in all competitions.
It’s a testament to his quality that he stands as the sixth highest capped player in the history of the Dutch National Team. He was a reliable individual in an international career spanning from 2004 until 2014 and should rightfully be classed as one of the best Dutch players in recent history!
Promising from the Outset
Unlike many other youngsters from his generation, Dirk Kuyt remained with his local club Quick Boys throughout the entirety of his developmental years. Quick Boys were the closest football team to the tranquil coastal town of Katwijk in South Holland, which is the location of his childhood.
He started his pursuit for greatness at just five years of age when he began playing for Quick Boys. He gradually manifested his skills throughout his childhood and teenage years until making his debut at 18 years old.
Kuyt made an instantaneous impression on supporters by scoring three goals in his opening six appearances. It became apparent that Quick Boys were going to be unable to hold onto their new sensation and he signed a professional contract for Dutch Eredivisie outfit FC Utrecht ahead of the 1998/99 campaign.
Managers Mark Wotte and Frans Adelaar were reluctant to play him as a sole striker, as they preferred Serbian forward Igor Gluscevic. Kuyt was deployed as a winger and remained in that position until the appointment of Foeke Booy in 2002.
He relished his new-found role as the catalyst and fulfilled expectations with 23 goals in 40 appearances during his final season. FC Utrecht reached the KNVB Cup, where they met Feyenoord. Despite heading into the fixture as underdogs, Kuyt marked his final appearance by scoring and receiving the Man of the Match award in a memorable 4-1 win.
Feyenoord had been captivated by the young Dutch sensation and spent €1 million to bring him to De Kuip. Kuyt quickly became a fan favourite at Feyenoord, scoring 83 goals in three seasons.
The 2004/05 campaign was by far his most prolific. He bagged 36 goals in all competitions and won the Dutch Eredivisie Golden Boot. His strong performances granted him a call-up into the Dutch National Team and he appeared in his first major international tournament at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
After the tournament, Kuyt was attracting interest from several high-profile clubs across Europe. He completed his dream of playing in the Premier League when he joined Liverpool on 18 August 2006.
The Premier League Dream
“I only wanted to leave Feyenoord for a really big club, and that is what Liverpool is. They are a fantastic big club and it will be a real pleasure to play here.” These were his words upon confirming his transfer to Anfield.
It was a new challenge for Kuyt and he seized his opportunity by scoring 14 goals in his debut season. He also struck a chord with supporters by walking to all corners of the pitch at Anfield to applaud the supporters.
He scored the winning penalty kick against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League semi-final, but was unable to prevent them from succumbing to defeat against AC Milan in the final, despite scoring a consolation goal.
2007 was an emotionally draining year for Kuyt. His father sadly passed away after suffering with cancer in June 2007, but Kuyt continued to do his father proud by continuing his goalscoring antics at Liverpool.
In 2010, Kuyt appeared at his second World Cup finals and finished as the joint-top assist provider with three assists. Holland also reached the final by progressing from a group containing Japan, Denmark and Cameroon, and went onto eliminate Slovakia, Brazil and Uruguay in the knockout stages.
It was an intense battle in the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg but FC Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta decided the affair with a dramatic winning goal in extra-time.
Kuyt made a habit of scoring against Liverpool’s local rivals Everton in the Merseyside Derby, which added to the fascination surrounding him. He capped his final season with his only piece of silverware in England, as Liverpool defeated Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium to win the 2012 League Cup.
The Final Chapter
In 2012, Kuyt announced his departure from Liverpool, after scoring 71 goals in 286 appearances over his six seasons at Anfield. He went onto join Turkish giants Fenerbahce and resumed his goalscoring form in the Turkish Super Lig.
He expanded his trophy cabinet by winning the Turkish Cup in his debut season and the Turkish Super Lig and Turkish Super Cup in his second campaign. 2014 also proved to be his final year involved with the Dutch National Team, but he made sure it was a memorable final chapter.
Kuyt played an influential role for Holland at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and featured in a number of positions, including as a winger, right wing-back and left wing-back. The Netherlands went onto reach the semi-finals of the World Cup and successfully avenged Spain with a famous 5-1 victory in the opening group match.
It was a fitting time for Dirk Kuyt to announce his international retirement, after scoring 24 goals in 104 caps. He was heading towards the end of his career and returned to Feyenoord to play out his closing seasons.
Feyenoord won the KNVB Cup during his returning season and Kuyt played a critical role to help guide them to their first Eredivisie title since 1999. It was a fairytale ending to a sensational career and he cemented an immortal legacy at De Kuip for his final acts of heroism.
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