Last March, a Dirk Kuyt hat-trick in Liverpool’s memorable and emphatic 3-1 defeat of Manchester United ensured the Reds remained in the chase for Champions’ League qualification and that the Premier League title race stayed interesting, at least until last weekend’s ‘showdown’ with Chelsea effectively secured United’s 19th title. The Anfield outfit’s best chance of European involvement now looks likely to be in next season’s Europa League, but Kuyt’s consistently committed performances have kept the club within reach despite an overall disappointing campaign for the five-time European Cup champions.
The Dutch forward received glowing praise for his performance that day and was hailed for his “unsurpassed work-rate,” according to the Independent. “He was in the right place to apply the finishing touches to complement the artistry of Luis Suarez. Looks like Kenny’s football philosophy has been assimilated by the whole squad, and Kuyt leads the way in showing what can be achieved through hard work,” the article continued. It isn’t the first time Kuyt has been acclaimed for his unrelenting work-rate, but why is this vague perception of the former Feyenord front-man’s abilities enough to detract from a shot’s to goal ratio similar to Emile Heskey’s? It is worth remembering that Kuyt was signed five years ago following a successful career in his native Holland where he scored 119 goals in 261 appearances for his previous club and Utrecht, but was soon transformed in to a wide player with questionable results.
The issue isn’t whether Kuyt lacks Premiership pedigree, particularly as to date, he’s achieved 74 caps for his country and featured in three separate international tournaments, but that appraisals of his actual talents are heightened based on a single unjustified characteristic. The fact that he’s committed 12 more fouls than Darren Bent this season doesn’t necessarily mean he works ‘harder’ than the England striker, but then again the ex-Sunderland striker is generally considered lazy, despite scoring just under a goal every other game during his seven full Premier League campaigns for four different sides. They are both essentially forwards, a position which stipulates proficiency in front of goal and the making of offensive runs, so tackles are a luxury, or rather, unnecessary, within the confines of a forward’s job description.
Kuyt has scored 12 times in the League this season, equalling his best ever campaigns in his first and third seasons in England, which doesn’t represent a good enough return bearing in mind he has also contributed only 29 assists in the league in five years as a ‘winger.’ All footballers are regularly trained athletes, and Premier League participants are the fittest representatives seeing as a large number can compete for 90 minutes over the course of a 50+ fixture season. Each position requires a different type or types of effort, and Kuyt has found a way to merge his duties with those of a defensive midfielder and still remain a fans’ favourite. Kuyt certainly doesn’t look out of place in a team of Liverpool’s standing, but we are too quickly fooled of his true gifts because of his inexorable desire to hunt down the ball.
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