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Good luck, always, Dirk by Rafa Benitez

"A footballer is leaving Liverpool but above all they are losing a good person, an excellent professional, a great example for all to follow"
06/06/2012rafabenitez.com

A few years ago, a former player of mine from my time at CF Extremadura, Igor Gluscevic, was singing the praises of a team mate of his at Utrecht. The player in question he was always talking about was a certain Dirk Kuyt. He told me that he was so impressive in his work rate and sacrifice for the team. He worked his socks off from the first minute to the last but also he could score goals for fun. As if this wasn’t enough he was a great mate and an excellent professional. He would be a great signing with a consistent level for any side.

Some time later, in August 2006, Liverpool FC, where I was the manager, were looking for a good striker and a right sided midfielder with a good work rate and stamina. But as was always the case, we only had enough money for one of them so I had to choose which one to prioritise. As things happened, I decided that the striker was the priority and a few days later the Imagensame Dirk Kuyt signed for LFC from Feyenoord who had brought him from Utrecht. There has not been a single day, not one, when I regretted that decision, in fact it has been the complete opposite. If there is anything I have learnt from experience it is that the signing of Kuyt gave me a player for an exceptional team, as he was versatile, committed, professional and exemplary in his behaviour on and off the field.

As Gluscevic had said, he was an excellent profesional and team mate. But the tall Montenegran didn’t tell me that he was also very effective. His quick turns have surprised many a defender in the Premier League and his involvement in the game was constant. He could play in any attacking position and always knew what he had to do anticipating the situation. He set examples which speak volumes for his form, his commitment and sacrifice for the team. When no-one showed to receive from a throw-in there was always the willing and ever ready Dirk. If you needed someone to get in to position to finish, of course it would be him. When you needed someone to run behind the defence against Milan to create space between the lines for Gerrard again it had to be Kuyt. If you needed one last effort to help against a defender who was getting forward, Dirk Kuyt did it willingly as if he would do it ad infinitum.

A lot of people talk of players who play for the shirt and their loyalty, but I can tell you that in my opinion, in my career as a coach, I don’t know of many players who have played for the Liverpool shirt like he did from the day he arrived to the last second he played for that red shirt. Never, not once, did he complain about having to play in a different role or out of position to help the cause. Not everyone can say the same. He was always the first to train, to improve, to progress and to set an example, he was a true team mate in all senses of the word on the pitch and a model human being off it.

Those who count these things say that he has played 285 matches for LFC and has scored 71 goals, 51 in the Premier League. That’s not bad at all. Especially if we take in to account that they are icing on the cake of all his assets which statistics don’t show: the contribution and good he brought to the team with his industry, his thoroughness, his sacrifice, his generosity and camaraderie.

These are simple things, notes in the margin of a story created from a philosophy engrained with playing for the team, but I remember when he scored in the final in Athens to give us a lifeline when we were running out of time. Also his important goals, in the same competition against Inter Milan, Arsenal or Chelsea. Of all Kuyt’s goals I remember the one he got in the 118th minute of the legendary game against Standard Liege at Anfield which took Liverpool form the qualifiers to the group stages of the Champions League that year.

His three goals against United and the decisive part he played coming on from the bench to win the Carling Cup last season will always stick in the memory of true Liverpool fans. There are so many good things you can say about Dirk Kuyt that they are too numerous to go in this simple and sincere note of thanks.

A player, a footballer is leaving Liverpool but above all they are losing a good person, an excellent professional, a great example for all to follow. And I couldn’t resist dedicating these few lines of thanks.

The best of luck in your new venture, Dirk. You deserve it.

Rafa Benítez.

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