He's a star, no doubt

Dirk Kuyt's INTERNATIONAL DEBUT came after Marco van Basten took over as Holland manager and began to drop some established stars. He has been a permanent fixture in national squads over the last two years, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

Dirk Kuyt, a strong-running and highly-rated Dutch World Cup striker, was signed by Barclays English Premier League club Liverpool early in the season.

Kuyt arrived at Anfield with a strong reputation and fine record and it appeared to take the club considerable effort to prise him from reluctant sellers Feyenoord. Newcastle had also been interested in his services but eventually Kuyt, who was first linked with Liverpool last year, moved to Anfield for a fee believed to be worth around GBP9 million in August.

He has had a reputation in the past for wasting chances — Holland manager Marco van Basten has even commented on it — but his high work-rate has already endeared him to the Liverpool crowd.

Kuyt was born in the fishing village of Katwijk and played for local club Quick Boys before catching the eye of Utrecht. His first-team breakthrough came in the 1998-99 season but it was not until 2000-01 that he truly established himself as a striker, scoring 13 goals. Before that he had often been deployed on the wing.

By 2003 he was a full-time striker and netted 20 goals during the season as Utrecht won the Dutch Cup. Kuyt scored in the 4-1 win over Feyenoord in the final and was then quickly snapped up by the Rotterdam club. He was an instant hit at the Feijenoord Stadium and scored 20 goals in his first season. He repeated that feat twice more in the following seasons before leaving the club with a record of 71 goals in 101 appearances.

"I only wanted to leave Feyenoord for a really big club and that is what Liverpool are. They are a fantastic, big club and it will be a real pleasure to play here," said Kuyt.

His international debut came after Van Basten took over as manager and began to drop some established stars. He has been a permanent fixture in national squads over the last two years. Kuyt has attracted interest from around Europe over the last two years but his reputation was hardly enhanced at this summer's World Cup.

Kuyt started in 11 of Holland's qualifying matches but was relegated to the bench for the start of the tournament. He featured as a late substitute in the first match and was left out of the second altogether before being deployed on the wing in the third. He surprisingly started ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy in the stormy last-16 tie against Portugal in Nuremberg but had a poor match and Holland were beaten 1-0.

Kuyt's wife Gertrude has found favour in the Dutch media for her down-to-earth attitude. She continued to work as a nurse in an old people's home after marrying Kuyt until their daughter was born. She now runs a charitable foundation she set up with Kuyt to help disadvantaged children in Dutch inner cities and third world countries.

Kuyt also does not act like a megastar. He regularly visits Katwijk and his old club Quick Boys, who recently benefited from a GBP300,000 windfall as a result of the player's move to Liverpool.

In Rotterdam, Kuyt drove a Volkswagen Touareg W12, a midsize SUV that has proved to be one of the German manufacturer's most successful ventures. It not only rivals the Porsche Cayenne for horsepower but has given VW a strong hold in the SUV market alongside the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. It does 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds and retails from GBP30,000-50,000 depending on the model.

FACTFILE Name: Dirk Kuyt Position: Striker Club: Liverpool Date of Birth: 22/07/1980 Holland Caps: 25 Holland Goals: 5

Holland debut: v Liechtenstein, September 2004

Moment to remember

Even though he did not score, Kuyt rates Holland's decisive World Cup qualifying win over the Czech Republic in Prague last October as the best match he has played in. The Dutch won 2-0, with goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Barry Opdam, to pip the Czechs to top spot in their group and qualify for the finals in Germany.

Moment to forget

Holland's loss to Portugal in the World Cup was an undoubted low. The match will be remembered for the sending off of four players, two from each side, plus 12 bookings. Kuyt struggled to make an impression and lacked his usual menace in front of goal.

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