Expected, but out of the blue. Kuyt to Fenerbahce is official, not long after initial reports surfaced early this morning.
So, what will you remember most? His hat-trick against United probably leads the list, and rightfully so, but we're not wanting for choices. There's his five strikes against Everton, including two game-winners. There are the crucial late winners against United, Sparta, Liege, Trabzonspor, City, and Wigan, among others. The latest goal in Premier League history, a 102nd-minute penalty to draw level with Arsenal in April 2011 or his essential equalizer against the same opponents in the first leg of the 2007-08 Champions League quarterfinals. And there's also what should have been yet another big game late winner in the Carling Cup final slightly more than three months ago.
By my count, 24 of Kuyt's 71 goals were game-winners, including 10 after the 80th minute. 24 of his goals were also scored after the 75th minute, that desperate period as the clock ticks closer to midnight. Those two stats sum up Dirk Kuyt perfectly. So does the fact that he scored 12 goals in 40 Champions League appearances – a rate of just over 1 in 3 compared to his 1 in 4 rate in the Premiership and domestic cups – including memorable strikes against Inter, AC Milan, Arsenal, Chelsea, Porto, and Marseille. He is, simply put, a big game player – one of the highest compliments in sports.
Despite his form over the last nine months, which hadn't been good (to put it kindly), we can't downplay the significance of his exit, especially if it's coupled with Maxi Rodriguez's, as has been heavily rumored. Even in the most forgiving appraisals, it takes an existing hole in Liverpool's squad and rips it wide open.
I understand the rationale for both his exit. I don't like it. But I understand it. He's 31, fell off dramatically this season, and is most likely one of the highest earners at the club.
But Liverpool already have a shallow squad, as we're all well aware. It looked a lot better on paper in August, for a number of reasons, but the final few matches of the season (if not the majority of the campaign) put paid to that notion. Liverpool now need to replace an important player, one who could play multiple attacking positions. One who played 2378 minutes this season, starting 25 matches and coming on as a substitute in 19, which is no small amount. And Ideally replaced him with a younger better cheaper model, in addition to further purchases in both attack and central midfield, other problems made glaringly obvious over the course of the painful season.
If you have siblings, your parents probably lied to you; everyone has their favorite children. And we all have our favorite players, as much as we'd like to pretend the club comes first, etc etc. Kuyt, along with Lucas and Agger, has been one of mine since he joined the club.
His decline over the past year has been difficult to watch. He's not sparked to life in goals or assists after the winter, as in previous campaigns, with just five goals (two in the league) and two assists. Whether that's down to age or less playing time than before is up for debate; I fear it's the former. Still, he has more to give and, still in the Netherlands squad if not starting XI, has a right to want more playing time.
That the club want to lessen the average age makes sense, both for the overall health of the squad and the payroll. And that so many important players are the wrong side of 30 is yet another of the previous owners' sins. It was even worse before Comolli cleaned house last summer, one of the few things Damien still deserves credit for: Cole, Poulsen, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos.
Regardless, breaking up is hard to do. Put your hands up. Put your hands up for Dirk Kuyt. The hardest-working man in show business.
Thanks for everything, Dirk.