Dirk Kuyt, One-on-One: "I nearly missed the 2007 Champions League Final – Peter Crouch drove straight at me in a go-kart"
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 didn't anticipate this would be my path.
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
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 really started.
CLUBS AND COUNTRY
- 1998-2003 Utrecht
- 2003-06 Feyenoord
- 2006-12 Liverpool
- 2012-15 Fenerbahce
- 2015- Feyenoord
- 2004-14 Netherlands
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% 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
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
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 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 didn't 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.