Liverpool FC: Should Dirk Kuyt Be Kept or Transferred?
This has been an extremely painful article to write, as I've tried to stay away from knee-jerk reactions and short-term thinking in terms of our Liverpool squad.
Unfortunately, the draw against Norwich served to highlight once again that the Anfield club has a problem when it comes to putting chances away.
Dirk Kuyt is one of the longest-serving members of this Liverpool squad and has been a personal favorite of mine for many seasons. We all know the "Kuyt" cliche: an industrious workhorse of a player, ultimate utility-man, what the hell is his position exactly, etc.
He was never going to be as prolific as he was with Feyernoord in the Netherlands, but he has perspired his way into Liverpool supporters' hearts ever since Rafa Benitez brought him to the club in 2006.
In the cold light of Liverpool's current position in the 2011/2012 league table, the question needs to be asked. Should Kenny Dalglish keep Dirk Kuyt at Anfield?
I'd like to look at this on a case-by-case basis, with an aim of delivering a verdict after hearing both sides of the argument.
I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter, unless of course you're a Manchester United fan and are still bitter about Kuyt putting three past Edwin van der Sar back in March.
Evidence to Keep: Liverpool's No. 18 Has Sentimental Value to Liverpool Fans
I've noted before that players who want to win the hearts of Scousers simply need to accomplish one simple task—score against Manchester United (take note Jordan Henderson).
On March 6th, 2011 Dirk Kuyt took advantage of Nani's carelessness and Luis Suarez's brilliance to score not one, not two, but THREE goals in a 3-1 victory over United.
He hasn't hit many, but that performance will live long in supporters' memories and has already secured him legendary status.
Each of Kuyt's goals that glorious morning were pure poacher's efforts that Ruud van Nistlerooy himself would have been proud of.
On another note, how many players can say that they've scored in a Champions League final?
Liverpool ended up losing out to AC Milan 2-1 in the 2007 final, but Kuyt notched a late consolation header that ensured a nervy finish to the match. It was his only goal in Europe that season, but once again it was a memorable one.
Finally, whether it is down to loyalty or simply a professional no-nonsense approach to speaking in public, Kuyt has never complained, griped or whined about circumstances at the club.
Liverpool players have had copious cause to complain—especially in the past couple of years—but the Dutchman's opinion has been resounding in its silence.
Evidence to Transfer: As a Striker, Kuyt Simply Isn't Scoring Enough Goals
Since joining the club in 2006 (and as of the time of writing) Dirk Kuyt has scored 67 goals in 250 appearances over all competitions—almost a goal every four games.
Granted, Rafa Benitez loved to play his favorite on the right wing as a defensive "outside attacker," but he was signed as a striker, and even when deployed up front he never really delivered the results a striker for a title-aspiring side should.
Granted also, that's streets ahead of Andrei Voronin, with six goals in 40 appearances.
Matches against Stoke and Norwich this season in particular have highlighted the club's lack of cutting edge in front of goal.
For all the brilliance of Luis Suarez, we just haven't seen the kind of chance-conversion that separates the hopefuls from the clubs that are consistently in contention for silverware.
If Liverpool want to get back into European competition and give the Manchester clubs and Chelsea an actual cause for concern in domestic honors, someone needs to be putting away opportunities.
Evidence to Keep: Selling Kuyt Leaves Us Woefully Short Up Front
If Liverpool do end up selling Kuyt, that leaves us with two recognized first-team forwards in Suarez and Andy Carroll, considering how Dalglish has used Craig Bellamy in a support role this season.
Putting all your striking eggs in one (I guess two, in this case) basket is rarely a good idea, more so due to Carroll's injury problems and the fact that Suarez will eventually get sent off for petulance or retaliation.
David N'Gog was rightfully flogged to Bolton, and Ryan Babel has found a new lease on life at Hoffenheim.
Dalglish likely would have replaced the Dutchman had a transfer gone through this summer, but at the moment there is a case to keep Kuyt simply because the alternative would see us rivalling Everton for least number of recognized senior strikers in the Premier League.
Kuyt has expressed his desire to play in his "preferred" striking role (just like 90 percent of Sunday league players out there), and at 31 he knows more than most what a centre-forward is supposed to do.
Evidence to Transfer: Kuyt Is Keeping Players in Need of Experience on the Bench
Against Stoke on Saturday, the inclusion of Kuyt as a centre-forward had the direct result of keeping Andy Carroll out of the team.
The two are on opposite ends of their respective careers, but in hindsight, playing Carroll would have given him more experience and another opportunity to prove himself.
Additionally, Jordan Henderson has found himself on the bench due to Dalglish opting for the Dutchman in the past few matches.
The debate on "Hendo" is one for another time, but that right-wing slot has been hotly contested, and if Carroll is back in the team, playing Kuyt means Henderson as well as Bellamy would likely be on the bench.
Playing Kuyt as a striker also restricts the role of Steven Gerrard, especially once Lucas Leiva comes back from his suspension.
Removing the Dutchman from the equation could introduce the possibility of Liverpool's captain in the hole behind Suarez, with two out of Stewart Downing, Bellamy or Henderson on the flanks.
Evidence to Keep: He Is the Ultimate Role Model for Younger Liverpool Players
Take a look at all the strikers currently playing in the Premier League, and you'd be hard-pressed to find one with the experience and work-ethic of Dirk Kuyt.
People seem to forget that he has played in the Netherlands starting XI for quite some time and was involved in their foul-tempered loss against Spain back in the 2010 World Cup final.
Simply put, Kuyt has been there, done that. He's ridden the Liverpool roller-coaster through the European forays under Benitez, the ownership drama, the Hodgson debacle and now King Kenny's return to his throne.
It was a sad day when Sami Hyypia left for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, not just because we lost one of the best defenders the club has ever had, but his experience and professionalism would have been a boon to the likes of Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Sebastian Coates in their development.
Xabi Alonso once said in an interview that Hyypia was the most disciplined and hardest worker in training at the club, which is probably the reason he was able to play at such a high level for so long.
If Jordan Henderson is able to take a page out of Kuyt's book in terms of work ethic, defensive ability and awareness, he could take some serious strides in justifying that lofty price tag.
Evidence to Transfer: We Could Lose Him for Nothing in 2013
Kuyt is 31 years old and is currently under contract until 2013.
The initial outlay to secure his services is undisclosed but believed to be somewhere in the region of £9 million, which looking back is a tidy deal.
The winter transfer window and next summer represent the last chance to recoup some of this, assuming he isn't offered a new contract.
Strikers are a precious commodity in the game—and rightly so.
Looking down the league table (and even above it, eh Newcastle?), you'd be hard-pressed to find a side that wouldn't jump at the chance to take Kuyt on board. As a seasoned international and veteran of the Champions League and Premier League for many years, the Dutchman has more than enough to warrant a first-team spot on many teams.
"Lesser" sides going to a big club often park the bus, and there's no more industrious, defensively capable but still dangerous forward in the game.
He'd also be able to provide a wealth of advice and example to younger strikers looking to break into a team such as Connor Wickham at Sunderland, Victor Moses at Wigan, or (God forbid) Apostolos Vellios at Everton.
While its unlikely Liverpool would net a transfer fee in the region of £10 million, any funds would be invested in his replacement.
Evidence to Keep: Dirk Kuyt Is the Perfect Squad Player
When Manchester City hammered United on Sunday, taking a look at the benches for both teams revealed a mix of players that would probably be in contention for a Champions League place if they were fielded together.
Looking at Liverpool's bench is admittedly pretty depressing, but the addition of Kuyt raises the bar significantly.
Back in September he expressed his disappointment at losing a starting place in the team, but this view was quickly tempered with the fact that Liverpool's squad has been stronger than at any point since he arrived at Anfield.
At 31, he must understand that Dalglish is looking to the future, but as an experienced striker who works harder than anyone currently occupying Wall Street, he is an exceptional asset to the squad.
Looking forward into the 2011/2012 campaign there are going to be injuries, there will (hopefully) be cup ties before weekend clashes against big teams, and ultimately there will be the need to change tactics in any given match.
A place in the first-team may not be guaranteed, but the ability to bring on someone of Kuyt's calibre to close out a game is without a doubt swimming around in Dalglish's thoughts.
Whether he is deployed up front, on the wing or as a makeshift right-back the Dutchman remains a valuable asset to Liverpool. The question of whether he will be satisfied in this role is another matter.
Evidence to Transfer: Kuyt Simply Isn't Good Enough
I bring this up not because I agree with it but simply because its something I have heard other Liverpool fans say (or yell at the TV) in the past couple of weeks.
Liverpool's aspirations are to be back in the Champions League and remain in the running to win the Premier League in May.
Looking at our rivals and players in similar positions, the argument can be made that Kuyt isn't at the level we need.
On the right flank of our direct competition, we see the likes of Nani, Juan Mata, David Silva and Aaron Lennon. Up front, these teams can call upon Dimitar Berbatov, Didier Drogba and Edin Dzeko as secondary strikers.
Liverpool seem poor indeed, in direct comparison.
An injury to Suarez would be catastrophic in robbing us of our best player, but this situation is dire indeed when looking at who we have to replace him.
None of Carroll, Kuyt, Bellamy or young Raheem Stirling have the technical skill, creative vision or tenacity of the Uruguayan.
The Verdict: Dirk Kuyt Will Remain a Liverpool Player Until the Summer of 2012
There is simply not enough compelling evidence for Dalglish to part with one of his most capable performers in the winter transfer window.
Typically a given "big club" won't sell a major asset in the summer, mainly due to the fact that inflated prices mean bringing in an immediate replacement is problematic.
Of course, this is thrown out the window when a Russian oligarch billionaire writes the equivalent of a blank cheque to secure the services of a Spanish striker who has yet to repay this initial outlay but should become good eventually.
January of 2011 was pretty ridiculous for Liverpool, and it's highly unlikely we'll see something like that again.
As of the summer of 2012, Kuyt will have only a year remaining on his contract, and I can't see the club offering him more than a one-year extension.
Whether or not the Dutchman moves on at this point will be 100 percent dependant on whether he is satisfied with a marginal role in the squad.
If he performs well for the Netherlands at the 2012 European Championship, Kuyt may well seek first-team football, and he will have no shortage of offers if Liverpool allow him to speak to representatives from other clubs.
At this point, receiving a transfer fee will be preferable to losing him for nothing next summer.
On a final note, assuming Carroll's performances do not dramatically improve within the confines of this season, Dalglish will certainly be in the market for a new striker, a transaction made easier using the proceeds of Kuyt's transfer or the striker himself as a make-weight.