Every team has that go-to man for big games — a player who may not be the most talented, but is the most relied upon to implement a certain tactic or role and even pop up with a crucial goal.
For Liverpool, that man has changed depending on the occasion. They have so many match-winners on the pitch capable of securing the three points with one final piece of magic, and that’s why they won the Premier League this season with seven matches to spare.
Gini Wijnaldum has famously been that man before. So has Adam Lallana and even James Milner — when filling in and performing to the standards of a 24-year-old — has been that man. Roberto Firmino has been that man. The list goes on, I could list the whole starting 11 because, the fact is, we have the privilege to watch a team of mentality monsters strive to victory no matter what week in, week out.
Go back a decade, however, and that privilege and joy when watching The Reds involved more of a feeling of unrest. Roy Hodgson was in charge, and Liverpool were not even close to the Champions League places. Winning wasn’t exactly a weekly routine and, instead of having a team fill of winners, Liverpool had just three in the form of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt.
Gerrard and Torres, out of the three, are remembered as the ultimate big-game players and rightly so, but it’s about time Kuyt was given credit. The Dutchman was never the most talented on the pitch, but he was the hardest worker.
He would scrape and claw for every ball, run until he could no more and somehow pop up to score goals in the biggest of games and this is why the Kop and Rafa Benítez fell in love with him. And, sure, maybe love is a bit far for the often cold Spaniard, but Rafa certainly respected Kuyt’s importance to his tactical setup.
The Kop fell in love with Kuyt because he was a no-nonsense, hardworking player, something which resonated with the fans — that, along with his hat-trick against Manchester United of course.
The Anfield faithful have since fallen in love with Andy Robertson in a similar fashion. Ever since the Scot chased down half of the Manchester City team like a non-stop pressing machine, he has been a fan favourite. It’s this hard work and never-say-die mentality that is now instilled into every single Liverpool player — a mentality and environment that Dirk Kuyt would have thrived in.
They would have been the perfect match, Klopp and Kuyt. The Dutchman’s passion, engine and ability to appear out of nowhere to grab a goal would have been welcomed by a classic Klopp hug. He would probably play a role similar to Firmino’s but without the blinding white smile, Brazillian flair and outrageous celebrations.
Or perhaps he would play a role similar to the one we saw Adam Lallana fill ever so well in the first few seasons under the German, initiating the press. Even off the bench, similar to the job that Divock Origi currently does, Kuyt would have been the perfect fit.http://gty.im/1148497648
The Dutchman ended his Liverpool career with the winning penalty in a Champions League Semi-Final at Stamford Bridge, a goal in the final itself — albeit a final Liverpool eventually lost — a brace to win the Merseyside Derby, a winning goal against Manchester United in the FA Cup, a goal in the 2012 League Cup final and a hat-trick against Manchester United. When there was a big game, there was a Dirk Kuyt goal.
To this day, Kuyt remains an honorary Scouser in the minds of the Anfield faithful — something that the Dutchman is very proud of. He said as much in 2017 after facing Manchester United with Feyenoord.
“Normally when your rivals shout at you it’s not the best thing that can happen to you, but actually it made me proud because I felt proud to be named a Scouser — an adopted Scouser — because for me Scousers are good people, hardworking people, committed people who never give up.”
One can only dream of what would have happened had Dirk Kuyt arrived in Merseyside a decade later than he did, to play under Klopp. The Dutchman would have thrived in the current setup with his unselfish nature only propelling the talents of those around him to greater heights.
Under Rafa Benítez, Dirk Kuyt was great. Under Jürgen Klopp and the current Liverpool setup, he could have been remembered as a Premier League legend.
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