After an underwhelming 2011-2012 season, most of which was due to lack of selection rather than any failings of his own, there was general consensus that Dirk Kuyt had little time left as a Liverpool player. Still fit as ever, still capable of producing in front of goal, and still committed to the cause, even if its commitment to him had waned. Expecting his exit and then getting it certainly makes today less surprising, but it's not any easier to say goodbye to a man who's been such an integral part of Liverpool's proudest moments in the past six seasons.
Earlier today Liverpool confirmed that the Dutch forward will be heading to Turkey after the Euros to join Fenerbahce, and there's been plenty of pictures splashed around of Kuyt in the Turkish club's shirt holding up a scarf with executives. One can imagine that if it's not already seen through, there's only a small few details left to be settled before the deal is completely sealed.
It was clear that there was little Liverpool could do to keep Kuyt around as his playing time dwindled this season, with his intentions known about wanting more significant minutes. The current administration was hamstrung even further, however, by the asinine dealings of the previous regime, including Christian Purslow, who had a £1million release clause built into the Holland international's contract.
That makes Kuyt another success story for the thankfully deposed former managing director. Even though Kuyt stayed, Purslow saw little value in him, just as he viewed Emiliano Insua and Lucas as non-contributors moving forward. A release clause of that amount doesn't force a player from a club, but it certainly does little to keep him when he's in search of more minutes and is still capable of having a major influence. Now almost two years gone from the biggest administrative shake-up in the Liverpool's history, and we're still dealing the fallout.
To focus solely on the shortcomings of those responsible for the business side of things only does disservice to a man who, regardless of his rate of success, did nothing but fully commit himself to following through on the pitch every time he stepped foot on it. That much was evident from the moment he joined Liverpool until he donned the red shirt for the last time in Swansea.
And while his workrate never changed, opinions of him swung dramatically in the time since Rafa Benitez signed him prior to the 2006-2007 season. He'd done terrifically well in the Eriedivisie, first with FC Utrecht and then with Feyenoord, and his move to Liverpool was welcomed as a chance to solidify an attack that had lacked a proven and reliable goal-scorer since the exit of Michael Owen.
That he did so in fits and starts was one of the more frustrating aspects of his early Liverpool tenure, but no sentence about the player could omit mention of his impressive work rate. He won over more and more supporters in his first year with a number of important goals, including the first at Anfield against Chelsea, the winner in the penalty shootout over Jose Mourinho's side on Liverpool's last great European night, and a late consolation in the final against Milan.
His influence waned in the following campaign, with both a dry spell in front of goal and shift wide right to deal with. That didn't prevent him from again stepping up when it mattered most, though---a brace from the spot at Goodison and the opener in the 3-1 aggregate win over Inter showed that. Sentiment generally turned downward, however, mostly due to the commitment of Rafa Benitez to shifting a player with average pace and no discernible skill in the wide area to the right flank.
But as has so often been the case, hard work and commitment saw him through a difficult period, and he continued to shine when called upon. Big-time Champions League goals were commonplace until the club were no longer in the competition, which meant shifting his match-winning tendencies to the Europa League and domestic competition. They were rarely pretty---I can remember maybe one or two that had any sort of grace involved---yet almost always immensely satisfying.
And none were more satisfying or reflective of the man than his hat-trick against Manchester United at Anfield. That he was overshadowed by Luis Suarez on the day despite scoring three goals was fitting, and that the total distance of the goals likely amounted to no more than twelve yards made it even better. Right place, right time, and a product of the industry that became synonymous with Dirk Kuyt.
All of which has made this past season so difficult to stomach. An integral part of the late surge in the 2010-2011 campaign, Kuyt was shunted to the bench along with Maxi, left to come on late or start an occasional match here and there as the new arrivals stumbled badly throughout their early days with the club. The commitment and fitness never faltered, but for an aging player who'd been at his best when playing regularly, his best days---at least for Liverpool---were behind him.
Of course, that didn't prevent him from popping up with the odd match winner, with an 88th minute goal giving Liverpool the win over United at Anfield, and the would-be winner in extra-time against Cardiff at Wembley. He would later step up and score from the spot after Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam missed their penalties, paving the way for Liverpool to earn their first piece of silverware in six years. Being left out of the FA Cup semi-final and final were tough for Kuyt to take, though, and as the season wound down it was clear that a man who'd forced his way into Liverpool's history would not play a part in their future.
Whenever a well-liked player leaves the club it's hard to deal with, and when they do it with grace and class it makes things even harder. No surprise that Dirk Kuyt's handled his in such a manner, giving one last interview with the offal before leaving.
"I will miss my teammates and Melwood. I will miss the fans, everyone at the club, and it will be difficult not going back there every day. I will miss it but I had to make a decision for myself and like I said I will always look back on my time at Liverpool with a smile on my face.
"Whenever there is time I will go back to Liverpool. I will always support the club and it will be great to go back and see my former teammates, and the people around Melwood and Anfield, and also the people I have known for the last six years. Liverpool will always be a part of my life and me and my family will always come back there."
What a wonderfully appropriate way to make his exit. A player not without his faults---the trampoline touch, the impossible misses in front of goal---manages a faultless departure. On an occasion that goes a long way in determining how he'll be remembered, Dirk Kuyt comes up big, and cements his status as one of the great Liverpool men in recent memory.
Thanks Dirk, and best of luck.