A first-team fixture for both club and country, the Liverpool forward was a major contributor to the Netherlands’ majestic route through 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. Signed by the Reds from Feyenoord in 2006, the Dutch international has since become a vital cog in the tactical machine set in place by Rafael Benitez at Anfield. He scored 91 Eredivisie goals between 2002 and 2006, serving one year at Utrecht and three with Feyenoord, but since then the Katwijk aan Zee native has mostly been used on the right wing, bringing his combative qualities to bear from out wide.
While fellow Oranje regulars Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart could all be described as perfect son-in-law material, combining sturdy good looks and superior footballing skills, Kuyt was cut from a different mold. With his straggly hair, boxer’s face, bow legs and forceful rather than graceful style, he looks somewhat out of place in such immaculate company. The tireless toiler is an invaluable team member, however, constantly racing up and down his right flank, making runs, tracking back, harrying opponents and generally battling to create space.
“There are players who can change the course of a match with a single touch and others who are there to serve the team,” he said before UEFA EURO 2008, the tournament in which he tied down a starting place. “I have no problem admitting I’m in the second category. I try to do what I can to win each match. I’m a battler. Every match is equally important to me, and if you win all the time, the titles will eventually come. That’s how I see things, anyway.”
Marco van Basten was the first to identify Kuyt’s potential as an international, despite the player’s atypical style, and handed the fisherman’s son his maiden cap in 2004. Now, having disputed Germany 2006 and EURO 2008, he is every bit a senior figure in the Netherlands set-up and will be desperate to make his presence felt on South African soil after a disappointing season with Liverpool.
“In 2006, we played some good games in the group stage and then we fell upon Portugal,” he told FIFA.com during an exclusive interview in October 2009. “We really let our chance slip away. We had the feeling that we hadn’t given everything. Some of those players are still around today and, for them, this World Cup is a last chance to shine on the biggest stage of all. We have a very good team that’s full of talent. The World Cup is coming up, but we still have time to improve and make sure we do even better than in 2006.”
In more personal terms, having lost his father on 29 June 2007, lifting the FIFA World Cup Trophy in Johannesburg would surely also represent the perfect homage.