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This player is what makes Liverpool tick

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Kuyt is perhaps one of the unsung heroes from the recent Liverpool resurgenceDirk Kuyt has never been the most appreciated footballer. He would not fit in at Arsenal or Barcelona, where style takes precedence over substance. But although he is not particularly attractive to watch, he brings other qualities to his team and it is no coincidence that he plays regularly for his national side, Holland, who have an amazing bank of offensive talent, and has been an automatic first choice pick at Liverpool for years now.

In fact, at this summer’s World Cup, he started ahead of Rafael van der Vaart, who has of course done so well at Spurs since his move from Real Madrid. Many fans could not understand the reasoning behind coach Bert van Marwijk’s decision, but Kuyt is a manager’s dream. His knack of scoring late and important goals is supported by an unbelievable work ethic. Watch Kuyt at the end of a match; others may be floundering, but he will still be doing the dog-work required.

Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United last weekend saw Kuyt score his first hat-trick for Liverpool, and indeed his first goals against the Red Devils. His scoring record is impressive for someone who is largely played out wide, at better than 1 goal every 4 games. With United being without both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the pre-match focus was placed upon new sensation Luis Suarez and the possible return from injury of £35 million man Andy Carroll. Suarez did indeed impress, and created two of Kuyt’s goals, but being in the right place at the right time, as Kuyt was, is not luck.

The mesmerising piece of skill that Suarez produced to create Liverpool’s first goal was the mark of a special player, and his swerving free-kick that set up Liverpool’s third was too much for Edwin van der Sar, who spilt the ball, allowing Kuyt to claim his hat-trick. And Kuyt can count himself lucky that Luis Nani made such a mess of his defensive header that presented him with his second on a plate.

Even so, the majority of players would not have taken advantage of this good fortune; not because they would not have had the skill to tuck the ball in the net, but because most players simply would not have been there in the first place. Some players have an instinct, and they get themselves into excellent goal-scoring positions more often than not. Think Ruud van Nistlerooy; think Robbie Fowler; think Javier Hernandez. Think Dirk Kuyt.

Granted, the quality of his goals was not too brilliant: the combined distance from the line of his three goals was a measly seven yards! But 30 yard rockets do not earn extra points and Kuyt’s tap-ins really were the difference between the two sides. Undoubtedly, and deservedly, Luis Suarez will take a lot of credit for Liverpool’s performance, but it is no use creating chances and having nobody on hand to stick the ball in the net.

Kuyt has other qualities which are often overlooked. His versatility, for example, has come in handy many times for Liverpool. Kuyt was bought for about £10 million, as a centre forward, but was eventually converted to play on the right. He has impressed, and while still scoring some, has not only created goals but helped out the right back behind him with his dogged approach to play. And when Dalglish decided to employ Kuyt through the centre again, he only went and scored a hat-trick!

The reasons for Kuyt’s success on the right side are not completely clear at first. No doubt, he can pass well, cross the ball and of course nips in with goals. Unusually for a right winger, though, his forte is not really beating a man for skill or pace. Instead he prefers to ‘give and go’ – find space for a return pass – a tactic that really should be used more often. Many players, like Nani, much prefer to do all the work themselves, but it must not be forgotten that there is more than one way to move past a defender.

Unlike many footballers these days, Kuyt also appears a genuinely pleasant man. He interviews extremely well and it is clear that he has authentic passion for football. This along with his devotion to the Anfield faithful make it is easy why he is so popular among Liverpool fans. Whether his appeal will eventually broaden to the masses is another matter, but love or hate Kuyt and his scraggly mop of a haircut, you cannot disagree with his record.

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