Up­front - One on One Dirk Kuyt re­veals his best po­si­tion

TOR­RES OR SUAREZ – WHO WAS BET­TER? DID PETER CROUCH nEARLY RU n HIM OVER? HAS HE MET A PLAYER WHO WORKS HARDER?

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view Arthur Re­nard Pho­tog­ra­phy An­tim Wi­j­naendts van Re­sandt

In 2015, af­ter spend­ing nine sea­sons abroad, Dirk Kuyt re­turned home to the club where he first be­came a star. Dur­ing those cam­paigns – six at Liver­pool and three at Fener­bahce – the Dutch­man built a rep­u­ta­tion as a hard­work­ing every­man. Put sim­ply, the kind of player fans adore. Yet the bond has never been stronger than with ‘Het Le­gioen’ – the pas­sion­ate fan­base of Feyeno­ord. And for that rea­son it had al­ways been his wish to re­turn to Rot­ter­dam one day. So there was no bet­ter venue for his chat with FFT than De Kuip, where he’s aim­ing to help the club se­cure a 15th league ti­tle, but first since 1998-99. Af­ter a mid­week train­ing ses­sion, Kuyt looks as en­er­getic as ever as he heads to one of the of­fices to dis­cuss a ca­reer very much still in full swing.

Be­fore foot­ball came along, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Alana Clark, via Twit­ter Foot­ball has al­ways been my pas­sion. From five un­til 17 I played at the lo­cal am­a­teur side Quick Boys and my dream was to get into their first team. I dared not think any higher back then. I was a painter, af­ter I no­ticed other play­ers did the same, so I know how it is to have a nor­mal job. From 15 to 17 I’d spend four days work­ing and one day at school. When I signed for FC Utrecht in 1998, I then had to give up my job. You’ve played in many po­si­tions in your ca­reer. What did you start as? Jamie Cox, via Face­book In my youth, I’d al­ways played as a striker. I also played there when I joined Utrecht, but in that pe­riod I started to play oc­ca­sion­ally on the right wing, too. Later I played for Feyeno­ord as a cen­tre-for­ward, but when I got se­lected for the na­tional team I was also used on the right side of at­tack. Un­der Marco van Bas­ten, I played al­most solely on the wings. You played non-league foot­ball in the Nether­lands un­til you were 18. Why didn’t one of the big clubs spot you? Henk Mul­der, via Face­book I did play in district teams and there had been in­ter­est from pro­fes­sional sides – sec­ond divi­sion clubs such as Haar­lem and Tel­star. But for me it was OK to play in the youth academy of Quick Boys, which was still at a high level. I was se­lected for the Dutch na­tional team at 16, but was let go af­ter one of the test train­ing ses­sions. I knew I was a de­cent player, but did not an­tic­i­pate this would be my path.

Was your dis­play against Feyeno­ord in the 2003 Dutch Cup Fi­nal what con­vinced them to sign you from Utrecht? Was that the day you re­ally re­alised you’d made it as a player?

Ru­pert Lay, via Face­book I knew I was go­ing to Feyeno­ord be­fore the cup fi­nal. It was a tense sit­u­a­tion, be­cause it made for mixed feel­ings for ev­ery­one. There was a lot of pres­sure on the game, but for me it was clear I wanted to give ev­ery­thing for Utrecht one last time. I saw it as an op­por­tu­nity to make an early mark at Feyeno­ord – to show them what they were get­ting. In the end, I scored and we won 4-1. It was great to con­clude my time at Utrecht in such fash­ion. It was spe­cial to see many fans – of both Utrecht and Feyeno­ord – give me a stand­ing ova­tion. On that day my bond with Feyeno­ord’s fan­base – ‘Het Le­gioen’ – re­ally started.

I read that you made a record 179 con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ances be­tween 2001-06 - how did you man­age that?

Kr­ish­nan Tvm, via Face­book Dur­ing my ca­reer, I’ve al­ways felt very fit. Hav­ing said that, I can’t re­mem­ber many games where I didn’t have any pain at all. If you re­ally want to achieve some­thing, you have to make sac­ri­fices, which in­cludes hav­ing to put up with aches and pains at times. Foot­ball is a con­tact sport and you will get into a lot of chal­lenges. In five to 10 per cent of the games I was pain-free, but I’ve al­ways been able to han­dle strains.

Was there in­ter­est from other clubs when you joined Liver­pool in 2006?

Mike Can­ning, via Face­book A year be­fore I went to Liver­pool, I had the op­por­tu­nity to go to Spurs, where the man­ager, Martin Jol, and chair­man, Daniel Levy, ex­pressed an in­ter­est. But it was on trans­fer dead­line day, and at that time I didn’t want to move. Later on, Liver­pool be­came the num­ber one club who wanted me, al­though all the ne­go­ti­a­tions took a while. Other clubs showed an in­ter­est too, such as Atletico Madrid. That’s also a nice club, but once I’d heard of Liver­pool’s in­ter­est, it was the only club I wanted to go to. From a young age I’d al­ways liked Liver­pool.

What was your re­ac­tion when Rafa Ben­itez asked you to play right wing for the first time? Did you have any idea it would be­come a reg­u­lar thing?

Storm Simp­son, via Face­book I started at Liver­pool as a for­ward, or in fact as a sec­ond striker. And in my first sea­son it went re­ally well, as I fin­ished my first sea­son as the team’s top scorer in the Pre­mier League. Dur­ing sum­mer 2007, while I was re­lax­ing on hol­i­day in Aruba, I read that the club had signed a cer­tain Fer­nando Tor­res. Dur­ing the next sea­son, I ex­pe­ri­enced a dif­fi­cult pe­riod: my fa­ther passed away, and on the pitch I did not play quite as well in the first cou­ple of months. Both Tor­res and Steven Ger­rard started to work re­ally well, with Ger­rard de­ployed in the No.10 role. It cre­ated space on the right wing for me. One of the first im­por­tant games I played there was against In­ter, and from that mo­ment it went re­ally well. I scored some im­por­tant goals and I was also pro­vid­ing as­sists. Ev­ery­thing kind of fell into place – I fit­ted quite well into that sys­tem.

In an av­er­age week, how many times would Steven Ger­rard men­tion the 2005 Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal?

Tommy Harper, via Twit­ter He never re­ally talked too much about the suc­cesses he gained on the pitch, but he is some­one who’s so am­bi­tious and it was clear to see that Liver­pool meant ev­ery­thing to him. He’s the best player that I have ever played with. He had ev­ery­thing: speed, an in­cred­i­ble shot, but he was also some­one who kept go­ing for the 90 min­utes and did not shy away from chal­lenges. He was a born leader, in his own way. He was so ver­sa­tile and it was fan­tas­tic to play in a team with him. I had a good bond with him. We played to­gether for six years and have re­mained in con­tact ever since. It was nice when he in­vited me to play in his tes­ti­mo­nial two years ago – that ex­pressed an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for me, as he’s played with so many good play­ers through­out his ca­reer.

How ner­vous were you when you took your penalty against Chelsea in the 2007 Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal?

An­dre Green, via Twit­ter It was ac­tu­ally all a bit of a haze, as it was such an in­cred­i­ble, nerve-wrack­ing game. I re­mem­ber scor­ing in ex­tra time – a goal which would have de­cided the tie – but it was wrongly dis­al­lowed. Dur­ing the penalty shootout I was fo­cused on try­ing to reach the fi­nal. It then be­came ap­par­ent that I could de­cide the game with our fourth kick. I can still hear the noise in the sta­dium af­ter slot­ting the ball home. It was one of my most spe­cial nights at An­field. Euro­pean matches were all fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ences - and I also re­mem­ber in­cred­i­ble games against Barcelona and Real Madrid. We came across Chelsea so many times in that era – there was never re­ally a dull game. It was in the time of Jose Mour­inho, who al­ways likes to add some fuel to the fire. There was also a lasteight tie in 2009. Guus Hid­dink was at Chelsea. We lost 3-1 at home, but at Stam­ford Bridge we got in­volved in this crazy game that ended 4-4. It swung one way and the the other. The thing with Liver­pool, par­tic­u­larly at that time, was that we were a ma­chine and never gave up.

How an­noy­ing was it to score in the 2007 Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal against Mi­lan in Athens, but still end up los­ing?

Andy G, Mersey­side To play in that Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal was a fan­tas­tic achieve­ment, but los­ing it is one of my big­gest dis­ap­point­ments. We didn’t con­trol the game enough in or­der to hurt them, and they scored two goals at the right mo­ment. In the end I scored our goal a bit too late, or we could have come back like Istanbul. To be hon­est, I was happy that I was play­ing in that match at all, as prior to the fi­nal there had been an in­ci­dent that al­most pre­vented me from tak­ing part. When we were in the train­ing camp be­fore the fi­nal, the squad went go-kart­ing. I didn’t join in, as I wanted to rest a small in­jury, but I went along to watch and picked a safe-look­ing spot to stand be­side the track with Rafa. Out of nowhere, Peter Crouch drove straight at me at roughly 35 mph. He couldn’t brake! The only thing I could do was to jump in the air, and in the end I just man­aged to jump over Peter, and he crashed into card­board boxes be­hind me. I was within an whisker of hav­ing my an­kles torn to pieces, and would surely have missed the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. It was in­cred­i­ble I saw him just in time and could jump over him. Crouchy’s face was as pale as death, he’d had some kind of black­out. For­tu­nately ev­ery­thing was all right.

Fer­nando Tor­res or Luis Suarez: who was bet­ter dur­ing your An­field ca­reer?

Rob Kennedy, by email That’s a dif­fi­cult one as it wouldn’t do jus­tice to them to make a choice. I had the priv­i­lege to play with Tor­res when he was at the top of his game. There was no­body else at his level at that time. He had a spe­cial style of play­ing, where he put this ex­plo­sive­ness into his move­ments, and he was deadly when fac­ing to­wards the op­po­si­tion’s goal. If you gave him the ser­vice, then there was al­ways a good chance of suc­cess. Luis is a dif­fer­ent type of player, but an­other fan­tas­tic for­ward. He’s a very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter on and off the pitch. Away from the field he is very re­laxed and down to earth; a fan­tas­tic per­son. On the pitch, he does ev­ery­thing to win. At times that at­ti­tude causes trou­ble, but it’s also what makes him so good. Prior to Luis’ ar­rival at Liver­pool, I was aware of the club’s in­ter­est. They had asked my opin­ion of him as a player, and of course I was very pos­i­tive. Just af­ter I heard that Luis was about to sign, I called to con­grat­u­late him and tell him that if he or his fam­ily needed any­thing – like ad­vice on hous­ing – he could call. From the start there was a mu­tual click – with our fam­i­lies, too. Our bond was re­flected on the pitch. In his first six months we played to­gether up­front, and we be­came a re­ally good pair­ing. We both scored a lot of goals and helped the team win lots of points.

Which did you pre­fer – the league hat-trick against Manch­ester United in 2011, or the 88th-minute win­ner against them in the FA Cup in 2012?

Alex O’Leary, via Face­book Both were spe­cial mo­ments, so it would be im­pos­si­ble to pick. The hat-trick was unique. Not many play­ers score three against United, and to do it in a Reds shirt was great. I scored all the goals from close range, and the first came af­ter some great work from Suarez. When I scored the win­ner in the FA Cup 10 months later, it came in a more chal­leng­ing pe­riod, as I wasn’t play­ing as reg­u­larly as I wanted to at the time.

“I CAN STILL HEAR THE NOISE IN THE STA­DIUM AF­TER SLOT­TING HOME THE PENALTY TO BEAT CHELSEA – ONE OF MY MOST SPE­CIAL AN­FIELD NIGHTS”

Kenny Dal­glish then gave me the chance to come on with 25 min­utes left. To de­cide the game in that way in front of the Kop was also fan­tas­tic.

Do you think you would fit into Jur­gen Klopp’s team at An­field?

Josh Hamer, via Face­book Judg­ing from a dis­tance, I think I would, yes. I don’t re­ally know him, of course, and I don’t know how he trains, but from ev­ery­thing I’ve seen, I think he’s a man­ager I would’ve liked to play for.

Foot­ball in Turkey has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a lit­tle crazy – what was the mad­dest thing that hap­pened dur­ing your time as a Fener­bahce player?

Will New­man, via Face­book We played a match at Trab­zon­spor, which to­tally spi­raled out of con­trol. It got so heated we had to hide in the dress­ing room from their fans for four hours af­ter the match. Even­tu­ally we were trans­ported to the air­port in an ar­moured po­lice car. The peo­ple in Turkey are very emo­tional – mostly in a pos­i­tive way, but some­times also in a neg­a­tive way.

Was there any­one you wish you’d stuck a re­ducer on in the ‘Bat­tle of Nurem­berg’ be­tween Holland and Por­tu­gal at the World Cup in 2006?

Dar­ren Walsh, via Face­book That game was in­cred­i­ble. I was not in­volved in a per­sonal bat­tle; I was too busy calm­ing down the fights! My main mem­ory is hav­ing a chance where I missed the ball by an inch. Per­haps that could have changed the match, but un­for­tu­nately we lost.

How the hell did the Dutch man­age to smash Italy and France at Euro 2008, then lose to a pretty av­er­age Rus­sia team in the quar­ter-fi­nal?

Al­fie Grif­fiths, via Twit­ter The first three of our games were fan­tas­tic, but then we had a dif­fi­cult day against Rus­sia. We were be­low our level and lost what was a war of at­tri­tion. I be­lieve cramp and fa­tigue took their toll on some of our play­ers. Per­son­ally it was a dis­ap­point­ment for me, as I got substituted at half-time. I re­mem­ber think­ing at that mo­ment that it could prove to be a long game, and in those en­coun­ters I can be de­ci­sive. So many times in my ca­reer I’ve made goals at the end, in the last minute or in stop­page time, be­cause I’ve got some ex­tra stamina. Nine Dutch play­ers were booked in the 2010 World Cup Fi­nal. Was a lack of dis­ci­pline the rea­son you even­tu­ally lost to Spain? Jor­dan, via Face­book No, I don’t be­lieve so. I know it was a re­ally phys­i­cal match, but we didn’t play with a lack of re­spect for our op­po­nents. I re­mem­ber some of the Dutch and Span­ish play­ers were dis­cussing the match to­gether after­wards, as there was a mu­tual re­spect. It was a World Cup fi­nal, and in that high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tion things hap­pen in the heat of the mo­ment. The game was set­tled on small de­tails; if we could have hung on for a lit­tle longer, we would have had a penalty shootout. Then, who knows?

You’ve played in some fierce derby matches with Feyeno­ord, Liver­pool and Fener­bahce, but which one was the most heated and pas­sion­ate?

Jun Kalous­tian, via Face­book They have their own char­ac­ter. What I liked about the Mersey­side Derby is that both sets of fans are able to at­tend. In Holland [Ajax-Feyeno­ord] that is no longer the case, and with Galatasaray against Fener­bahce that’s not pos­si­ble at all. I re­mem­ber scor­ing in the derby for Liver­pool and see­ing joy on the faces of the Reds fans and the dis­ap­point­ment among Everton’s. My brother-in-law was there and he thought: ‘When we leave the sta­dium, it will be war.’ But once out­side, red and blue blended into one an­other and no in­ci­dents took place. When Fener­bahce beat Galatasaray, it al­most leads to a na­tional fes­ti­val. I have had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences in games be­tween Ajax and Feyeno­ord. The feel­ing of how the sta­dium just ex­plodes af­ter you score a goal in those games is un­par­al­leled. You al­ways worked hard. Did you ever come across an­other player who worked even harder than you? Martin Thomp­son, Old­ham I def­i­nitely played with some guys who worked hard and were al­ways there on the fore­front. Of course, Steven Ger­rard worked tire­lessly, but I also re­mem­ber John Arne Ri­ise al­ways kept go­ing, too. What springs to mind most are South Amer­i­cans, like Luis Suarez and Javier Mascher­ano, who trained and played straight af­ter they had come back from an in­ter­na­tional on a Wed­nes­day. We’d adapt train­ing in or­der for them to join af­ter they had just flown in. They were ex­hausted and had jet­lag, but did not com­plain. That showed great men­tal­ity.

What does the fu­ture hold for Dirk Kuyt? How much longer do you think you can keep play­ing? And will you be­come a coach af­ter you retire?

Jim Or­chard, by email It’d be nice to be a coach, but there is no guar­an­tee that you’ll be a good boss if you’ve been a good player. If I get the right feel­ing for it, I want to give it a go. I want to con­tinue with my foun­da­tion, which helps sport­ing projects for peo­ple with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. We have sup­ported some causes abroad in the past, too. Robin van Per­sie once do­nated $50,000, an amount he was able to give to a char­ity af­ter he had won a Pre­mier League award in 2012.

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