Speaking to BettingSites.co.uk, Dutch World Cup finalist and Liverpool legend Dirk Kuyt predicts the Netherlands will beat Ireland 2-1, believes England are the favourites for Euro 2024 and thinks Arsenal have a sensation in Jurrien Timber.
Question: Liverpool against Aston Villa – it was quite an impressive win. Aston Villa were in-form. What were your thoughts?
Dirk Kuyt: “Aston Villa were in-form, but I think Liverpool gave a great performance and produced a great start to the game. Also, it was very interesting to see Darwin Nunez starting, he played quite well. He was a little bit unlucky with a couple of chances he had, the second goal being given as an own goal, and there was another time where he hit the post. You also had the brilliant set-up from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah, and, finally, hitting just a little bit wide.
“It was a really interesting game. Liverpool arrived in really good form, and it was unbelievable to see that after 65 minutes, three very good players went off and three very good players came on. I think this is the strength that Liverpool have and they’ll be quite happy with their start to the season considering they haven’t been beat. There was the tough draw at Stamford Bridge, but they managed to win the other three games.”
Q: You mentioned Darwin Nunez there. Are you seeing signs that it’ll be a different season for him and he might go on to score more goals for Liverpool?
DK: “Last week you could see the quality of Nunez. He’s a great striker. The touches he made and the goals he scored were unbelievable. For him it’s important to become as clinical as he was in that game. I think he was a little bit unfortunate against Villa not to score more goals.
“If you kept a close eye on him last season, he was managing to create great chances but if he scores more goals, he could be up there with the best strikers in the league. He’s a top player and I followed him at his former club. I was very happy to see him for Liverpool and I’m expecting a lot of him this season.”
Q: Do you think he’ll go on to become the kind of striker who’ll go on to score 20 league goals for Liverpool?
DK: “Nunez has the quality to score 20 goals a season or more. It’s just up to him to get even more goals. I think he has the confidence of the manager at the moment, and hopefully he can keep going like this.”
Q: Liverpool will play Wolves after the international break. Wolves are a little bit off-form at the moment and have just lost Matteus Nunes. What are you predicting for that game?
DK: “Liverpool had a couple of very tough games, like Chelsea away and Aston Villa at home. The Newcastle game was crazy. There are no easy games in the Premier League. I always found it very difficult when, back in the day, we went to our national teams and you had to be completely focused on that, before returning to Liverpool and having to be a good team again.
“I don’t always like how there are national team games, especially considering Liverpool were building some good momentum. But you can see that the players are very close, and hopefully, they’ve prepared well for the Wolves game. It’ll be a tricky one, but hopefully they’ll do their best to get the three points.”
Q: Do you think they will get the three points?
DK: “I think Liverpool will beat Wolves. I’m a very positive guy. Liverpool are in great form and with the signing of Gravenberch, the group is complete. It’s bad luck for Virgil being suspended, but when he’s back in the team with Gravenburch and all of the other players, they’ll have a great squad to compete with the best in the league.”
Q: You mentioned there are no easy games in the Premier League. From your time at Liverpool, can you remember which team was the hardest, and which one was the hardest to go to?
“There were a lot of very good sides playing very good football. But back in the day going away to Stoke City was always so hard! Not just the long throw-ins, but also the physicality, you’d get it all day long. It was not always about football, it was also the physicality. Stoke City away was always a very tough game.”
Q: You’re not the first player to say that! You also mentioned Ryan Gravenberch there. As a fellow Dutchman, what can you tell us about him, and how he’s going to fit into Liverpool? What’s he going to bring?
DK: “First of all, he’s a very intelligent player. He was unbelievable at Ajax. He always managed to play at a very high level at a very young age. He then took the next step at Bayern Munich – which got me very excited as it proves he could play with the best in Europe.
“Unfortunately he didn’t get the game time he expected there. When I heard the rumors about him going to Liverpool I was very excited. I think he’ll definitely fit into Jurgen’s team and I expect a lot from him. Hopefully he can get back to the level we saw at Ajax. He was unable to do that at Bayern as he didn’t have many games, but I think he’s a player who can run forever and has great quality with his feet.”
Q: What other attributes do you think he can bring? Tackling? Passing?
DK: “I think a bit of both. Not only can he run forever, but his quality on the ball is amazing. He can pick the ball up from his defenders, but also feed the ball into the strikers. The quality of his runs are amazing, and so is his passing. He’s also very young and he’ll bring a lot of things to the team.”
Q: Are there any other Dutch footballers you’d like to see Liverpool sign?
DK: “We have a lot of talented players. Normally, in Holland, the majority of players coming to the Premier League come from Ajax. However my team Feyenoord are doing quite well lately. They managed to win the league last season. They’re also doing very well this season, however, we shouldn’t underestimate PSV.
“These two teams have a lot of talent. As far as Feyenoord are concerned, there’s Geertruida – he’s just like me back in the day! He’s a very talented player, and I think he’ll definitely make the step to a big team in Europe next season.
“Hopefully Liverpool will look at him as he can play several positions – right back, right centre-back, number 6. I think at PSV, Noah Lang is one to watch. A great attacking player, playing off the wing. These two, in my opinion, will be the ones to make the next step in Europe. I hope Liverpool sign at least one!”
Q: You played with some amazing players who, of course, got to a World Cup final. During your time at Liverpool, were there any Dutch players you wanted the club to sign?
DK: “I played with great players with the national team – Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, but they, of course, played for our rivals. I had a great relationship with Robben on and off the pitch. He was one of the best players I ever played with. To have him at Liverpool, on the wing, would have helped us win the league I think.
“I also played with Wesley Snjedier. Steven Gerrard was the best player I ever played with and I used to dream of him and Wesley playing together. Us three, and someone up front, would have made football so much easier.”
Q: Ajren Robben was so famous for cutting inside. Why do you think defenders couldn’t deal with him?
DK: “Defenders couldn’t deal with Robben because he was so quick, but he’s also lighting with the ball. It was so difficult for defenders to hold him so he’d get doubled up most of the time.
“However, even that didn’t always work. He loved to come from the right side and go inside. When he was very young, he played on the left, but eventually he became very comfortable moving to the right and using his dribbles to fire off his famous shot off into the top corners. He was the kind wing player who was almost impossible to defend against.”
Q: You knew what he was going to do, but you couldn’t stop it!?
DK: “He was so quick. If he saw a little bit of space, he would find it, and it was very difficult to stop.”
Q: What can Arsenal fans expect from Jurrien Timber when he comes back?
DK: “When we were speaking about Dutch talent I’d love to see at Liverpool, TImber would have been one. He was doing so well at Ajax at such a young age and managed to play a lot of games for the national side.
“His start at Arsenal was pretty good. It was really unfortunate for him to get that tough injury. Hopefully, he’ll come back stronger because he’s an amazing talent and I think Arsenal have signed a great player. For me, he’s one of the best defenders Holland has to offer.”
Q: Cody Gakpo. How can Liverpool get the best out of him?
DK: “Cody is a great guy and a great talent. I think it was tough for him to come during the winter break. Normally, when you come to a new club, the manager has time to ease you in slowly. However, when he joined Liverpool, there were a lot of injuries in midfield. It’s been tough for him, but he’s learned a lot in his first six months. I think he’ll have a great season this season.
“Unfortunately he hasn’t managed to score yet this season, but when he came on against Villa on Sunday, he was getting into great positions. Sometimes it’s about getting the ball at the right moment. Trent produced a great dribble and had the chance to play a sneaky pass to Cody, and at the end of the game, there was another chance to pass to him. It’s just a matter of time.
“Look at what we were saying about Nunez last season – creating chances but not scoring too many, and hopefully now he kicks on in the same way he did against Newcastle and Villa. I think it’s the same for Cody. There are a lot of good players up front, but he’ll find his place and have a good season.”
Q: You said Liverpool have a lot of good forward players. If you were the manager, what formation and players would you be picking?
DK: “The formation and team selection depends on the game. For me, Mo Salah would always play and I don’t think I need to explain why. Diaz is the other one I’d love to play as he’s a great player – so much energy, looks like he’s never tired. He adapts so well, not only to the Premier League, but to this Liverpool side.
“We have so many options, with Jota, with Cody, and also with Nunez. When Liverpool are playing a side at Anfield who play a high line – I’d play Nunez as he loves to run behind the defensive line.
“I think Cody is comfortable in the small spaces, so when teams drop-off a lot and play five defenders, I’d love to see Cody there as he’d be brilliant. It sounds great, as the Liverpool manager has a lot of options. When Jota comes on, he always seems to score!”
Q: You talked there about strikers never tiring. You were known for your relentless work-rate. However, do you think your play-style cost you goals?
DK: “That’s what people said in the beginning, that my work-rate cost me goals. They said I worked too hard and didn’t always appear super fresh in front of the goal. However, I did score important goals and I tended to score between 75 and 90 minutes, sometimes in injury time, one of my strengths was always being focused and taking chances that present themselves in the last minutes.
“I wasn’t an out and out striker, I loved to score goals, but the team winning was my true love. I had to keep running and fighting for the team. The most important thing is to win, even if I didn’t score.”
Q: Are you seeing any signs that Liverpool could win the PL this season?
DK: “It’s so tough to say. A few weeks ago, I would have said to wait until the transfer window is shut. There are still countries where it’s still open. Liverpool, are definitely up there, but Manchester City are doing unbelievably well, and it looks like they could be cruising again. But In football you never know. I remember last season, everybody was saying the same thing about Ajax in the Eredivisie.
“Slight changes can make all the difference in top sides. Liverpool are up there, Arsenal are up there, and as are Newcastle, and you never know about Manchester United despite the recent criticism. There are so many good teams, but Liverpool will be there, but we’ll have to wait a couple of months and see who is still fighting with City – who are ready to win the league.”
Q: It’s a million dollar question, but from what you’ve seen so far, who’s making the top four?
DK: “In my opinion it’s City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United who will make the top-four.
Q: You said Salah is an automatic starter, but he continues to be linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League. A figure of 200 million has been mentioned! How much do you think his potential departure would dent Liverpool’s bid for a title or top four finish?
DK: “I think it’s crazy how Saudi Arabia have become so involved with such good players. The problem is they can offer a lot of money, and that makes it difficult for everyone – the player, the club, and so on. From what I read in the media, Liverpool are very headstrong about keeping Salah and if they want to compete for the Premier League, they definitely need Mo.
“He’s so important for the team. Not only when it comes to goals, but he’s such a stellar example for the other players. To lose him at this stage would be huge. Hopefully he stays. The media is saying Jurgen is confident he’s staying, and that’ll make every Liverpool supporter happy.”
Q: Do you think Salah leaving for the Saudi League would impact his legacy?
DK: “Salah’s legacy depends on which stage he leaves. What he’s done for Liverpool will always be very special, and sometimes it’s hard to predict what his departure would do to supporters. There are a lot of people who are not happy with what’s happening in Saudi, but the same thing happened in the 80s when Italy were spending a lot to get the best players and league.
“Then Spain did it, and then England did it. However, it’s very strange as Saudi Arabia are not a country who were competing with the best teams. At the end of the day, I’m the type of guy who thinks every decision should be respected. If Salah leaves, I think it would hurt a lot of fans as he’s such a good guy and Liverpool, especially now, couldn’t function at their best without him.”
Q: Jordan Henderson gave an interview this morning saying he would have stayed at Liverpool if he felt more wanted and that his Saudi move wasn’t about money. What did you think of that?
DK: “I don’t think Jordan Henderson meant that he’s more wanted in Saudi than Liverpool because he was so respected, but I can tell a story about me back in the day. It was 2012 when I left the club and I wanted to stay forever, but when the time comes when you’re not playing every game anymore it’s quite tough for players.
“Jordan, I think, was in the same situation. He was respected. He was captain – but he didn’t play as many games as he would have wanted. I found it tough, too. I think that’s why Jordan made the step: if you can’t play for Liverpool as much as you’d like, where do you?
“I went to Turkey – where I could also make a lot of money, more than Liverpool, but you also go for a different experience. We managed to win the league over there. I can’t judge Jordan as Saudi is no different to Turkey, but I can understand that not playing as much as you’d like makes it hard to focus on training everyday and staying at your highest level.”
Q: You mentioned staying at Liverpool forever. What was your favourite memory from your time there?
DK: “My favorite memory would be the derby games against Everton and Man United. Those were very special. I also loved the Champions League nights at Anfield as the atmosphere was unbelievable and we played so many unforgettable games – the semi-finals against Chelsea where we won on pens and went to the final. That was one of the best memories ever.”
Q: A lot of players say that was the loudest atmosphere they’ve ever been involved in. Was it?
DK: “Yeah! It was amazing, especially considering the built-in rivalry between us and Chelsea. Benitez against Mourinho. We got beat 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, and the away goals rule was still in-place then. It was a very tough game, but then Agger scored at Anfield to take it to extra time. The fans were frantic and behind us until the very last second. That feeling was amazing.”
Q: We’re in an international break now – where the Netherlands will play Greece and then Ireland. What are you expecting from those games?
DK: “The Netherlands are in a tough situation. The World Cup was not what we expected. We may be a small country, but we always expect a lot of our team. It didn’t go the way we wanted, and then Louis Van Gaal said goodbye and Koeman came in and had a few tough games.
“I think it’s really important for the Dutch to win both games but it’s not so easy. It’s a very important game for Holland to stand up, focus, and play the way they are able. Memphis Depay is injured and they have an issue finding the right striker, but in my opinion, that man is Cody, but he’s used to playing off the wing in the national team or just behind the striker. We have a few decisions to make, but the most important thing is we win!”
Q: What score are you predicting for the Ireland game?
DK: “I hope Holland will win, but we always find it difficult to beat Ireland. I expect Holland to win 2-1.”
Q: Ireland have Evan Ferguson, who just scored a hat trick against Newcastle. As a former forward player, does he look dangerous to you?
DK: “Evan Ferguson looks dangerous to me! He’s in good form and hopefully he doesn’t bring that form to the Holland game! He’s an interesting player to watch, and I look forward to following him the next couple of months. It is difficult to transfer your form from your club to your national team – especially when you play against stronger teams, and I’d say Holland are stronger. For me, he’s one of the ones to watch in the Premier League at the moment.”
Q: Do you think Ferguson will be a target for Liverpool or another top six club in the future?
DK: “Ferguson will definitely be watched by top-six clubs including Liverpool, but he’ll have to keep going for a longer time to show he’s able to have a very consistent season. But from what I’ve seen so far, he could definitely be on the radar of the top sides.”
Q: You played with an Irish striker yourself, Robbie Keane at Liverpool. What did you think of his time there?
DK: “I always used to play against Robbie before he joined, he’s a great player and I think his best spell was at Spurs. I was very excited when he came to Liverpool, and I don’t think I’m wrong to say he couldn’t manage to find the same form as he did at Spurs.
“Sometimes it’s not down to the player, it’s down to the team, and the way we played was not the style he was used to. It was a bit of both. In training he was a great player to watch and play with. He’s a legend, and unfortunately I think he’d agree that his time at Liverpool wasn’t as good as his time at Spurs.”
Q: You mentioned play style. What was it about the way Liverpool played that didn’t compliment Robbie?
DK: “When Robbie came in, we already had quite a few stars in our team. At Spurs, Robbie was definitely the star player. At Liverpool, there are always stars coming in. Having to connect with the other guys was sometimes difficult for him.”
Q: Whilst we’re on international football, how do you rate the Netherlands’ chances to go far or win Euro 2024?
DK: “There’s a lot of change at the moment with the national team. We can expect a lot of new, young players now and in the next couple of months. A lot of new talent will arrive. However, we have a lot of things to do, and one of them is qualify. We haven’t brought the results in at first, and then gather the confidence to make sure we have a proper team in the tournaments. We always expect a lot from ourselves, but it’s difficult to judge.
“If you asked me now if we had the chance to be very successful at a tournament, I’d say not right now. But if you look at the players coming through, we can definitely be there. I know Ronald Koeman quite well, and if one manager can do it, it’s him. He’s a great manager and I think his first spell went well, but then he left for Barca. Now he gets his second chance, and he’s determined to do very well. We will do well under him at the tournaments.”
Q: What about England, they have Jude Bellingham playing very well at Real Madrid , Declan Rice, and Harry Kane at Bayern Munich. Do you think England will win Euro 2024?
DK: “England are definitely contenders. They have so many talented players at the moment, and they played very well at the U21 tournament. If you ask me now who the favorites are now, I would say England.”
Q: I was reading an interview with Jermaine Pennant two months ago, and he said Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard were big fans of yours. But on the first day of training and in the first few days, they weren’t quite sure! Do you remember that?
DK: “I don’t remember Carragher and Gerrard being unimpressed on my first day at training! Jermaine was always quite funny, though, so I’m not sure if he was joking or not. It was tough in the beginning as making the step from the Eredivisie to the premier league was big. A lot of players do it now, but it was tough.
“I joined Liverpool on 18th August, so it was quite late and the season had started and negotiations got left late. On the first day of training, I came off the plane and the guys were making themselves ready for the first game of the season. If he means that session, I think he’s probably right, but I can’t remember the other sessions. My debut against West Ham was quite good, I almost scored from 40 yards and played quite well. I definitely needed to adjust to the Premier League. I remember losing six or seven kilos due to the play-style, and then I gained 15 or 16 kgs of muscle because the Premier League is so intense, not only the quality, but the physical strength, the pace, the speed of the game.”
Q: You mentioned that, by and large, you had a good time at Liverpool and you were very popular with the fans and, at one point, you wanted to stay forever. Do you have any regrets about your time at Liverpool?
DK: “No, I have no regrets from my time at Liverpool. I always gave my best for the team and the team I played in was a great one. A few times we finished 2nd in the league and if we had just one or two more players, we could have won. It’s a bit like when Jurgen came in – in his first couple of seasons, he managed to buy Virgil Van Dijk and Allison and these two key players probably made the difference in winning the league for the first time in so long.
“When Rafa was there, we had so much momentum and we had Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Carragher, but then we sold Alonso and Mascherano, and that makes the difference between coming 1st and 2nd. I loved Liverpool, though, and I have no regrets.”
Q: In 2009, Liverpool challenged for the league for the first time in so long and then fell off. Why do you think that Liverpool team couldn’t quite keep it going?
DK: “We chased Man United a lot at that time, but they were very consistent. Every time we thought we could come close to them or overtake them, they managed to win. I remember back in the day, we played our game and most of the time, we played before them, before getting the place back to Liverpool, and when we were in the air, they were getting beat, and when we landed, we found that they scored in the last minute and won! People say it was luck, but they were consistent and probably had a bit more quality than us.”
Q: During that season, Rafa Benitez gave an infamous press conference when he criticized SAF pointing out what he thought were inconsistencies in the FA. What did the Liverpool players think of that when you saw it?
DK: “When two teams are so close to each other, sometimes things like Benitez’ press conference happen. I was watching English TV recently when Arsenal played Man United and I saw old clips of Ruud Van Nistelrooy. When emotions are high and two teams are so close, the press and the media likes to put some fire on it. It happens!
“Sometimes it’s also the beauty of the game – as long as we respect each other. That’s the most important thing. There’s a line, and we shouldn’t always take it so seriously. I loved Rafa’s press conferences, but I think the two managers had a lot of respect for each other.”
Q: You played with Fernando Torres at Liverpool and had a legendary time with him. However, people said he just didn’t look the same at Chelsea. Did you see any signs before he moved?
DK: “Torres was one of the best players I ever played with. We mentioned Robbie Keane at Liverpool, and I think the same happened to Fernando. A lot of people said he didn’t look the same and if you look at the stats that’s backed up. At Liverpool, he connected so well with Gerrard and I had the privilege to play with both of them when I played right wing.
“I think Fernando was disappointed with the story I just told – at some stage, he was expecting the club to invest a bit more to challenge for the title. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why he made the decision to move to Chelsea. It’s not easy to go from one club to another – especially a rival. To perform the same way takes time. Not only are you coming to another team, but you’re playing with other big stars. To get the same connection as he had with Gerrard was almost impossible to do. It was different there, and it’s also to do with the type of player you are and the way your new team plays. Fernando was fitting in so well at Liverpool, but not so much at Chelsea.”
Q: Is he the fastest player you’ve played with?
DK: “Torres was the type of player who always started at the right time. He also loved his runs behind the defenders and he had such a good feeling for that. Arjen Robben was another very quick player. I’m not sure if Torres was the quickest, but his runs were unbelievable. When you’ve got a passer like Gerrard behind you, it’s even better.
Q: Another player you played with was Andy Carroll. What did you think of him in training?
DK: “I remember when Carroll came and Kenny Dalglish was the manager. I think it was winter deadline day, and he came in and he was doing so well at Newcastle and he was a huge signing. The expectations were very high. Off the pitch, I had a very good relationship with Andy Carroll.
“At the start he was injured, and that meant that he needed time to adapt. The second season, he started to play games regularly, but it was tough for him to live up to expectations. I really liked him as a player and I think it was difficult for him to see Luiz Suarez do so well, as he was the other signing. He was one of the best signings LFC ever made.”
Q: What was your fondest memory of Suarez in training?
DK: “I knew Luis quite well as he lived around the corner from me. When he arrived from Holland, I tried to help him a bit. The funniest thing about him was when he stepped between the white lines of the pitch, and when he’s at home with his family.
“He’s such a great family man. However, he wants to win every single game. It didn’t matter if that game was a Premier League game or training game, and his willingness to win was impressive. He was always fuming when he was losing, and very happy when he was winning.”
Q: Do you remember his first training session and the impression he left on the Liverpool team?
DK: “I can’t remember Suarez’ first training session well, but when we played 5v5 in training, he was one of the best I’ve ever seen. I followed him at Ajax and when he was making his movements and doing his dribbles, I thought ‘’what a guy!’’.
“When I trained with him, I kept thinking about how lucky he was! He believed so much in himself, was so determined to make action, score goals, and win games, and he was always looking to beat his opponents. In the small training games, he was the best player I ever saw.”
Q: You mentioned earlier that Gerrard was the best player you played with – who was the best player you played against?
DK: “I always found it tough to play against John Terry. I played against him a long time ago when Holland U21 vs England U21 and I thought, ‘’wow, he’s tough.’’ Just before I went to Liverpool, we played a friendly against Chelsea, and he was even tougher by then.
“A few months after I joined Liverpool, one of the first starts I had was against Chelsea. He was a tough, very focused defender and a true captain of the team – always getting the shape right and keeping his teammates on their toes. His tackles and style of defending was very tough.”
Q: Another tough player you played with was Craig Bellamy. What was it like being teammates with him?
DK: “Craig was a little bit crazy! But he’s such a great guy. We also lived close to each other, so in the beginning we had a lot of contact, sometimes even driving to training together. His emotions were always very high and he was always a through and through winner. I think he found it very difficult to play in Rafa’s system.
“With him, you never knew what to expect. You had to be always ready to play, and always ready to be on the bench. We used to predict the starting 11, and with Rafa, you were never right! There is always a surprise, and sometimes that surprise could be you. For Craig, that was always difficult. He always said what we thought, and that could be very funny.
“He was also at my testimonial. He always showed me great respect, but he’d never be afraid to tell me I played badly. That’s what we’re used to in Holland! I always found it interesting to think about what players do when players retire. I could never predict that he’d be a coach, but when I saw him at Burnley, I thought he could be a great manager if he wanted – or at least a great assistant. He has a lot of experience in life and football, and the younger generations could learn a lot from him.”
Q: You said Craig Bellamy was never afraid to speak his mind. Do any examples come to mind?
DK: “We all remember the incident before the Barcelona game! It happened because he was so honest and straight, and as I said, in Holland, we quite like that. If something isn’t right, we speak up, sometimes very strongly. That’s what Bellers was all about. What happened before the FCB game wasn’t good, but when we look back, we had a lot of fun as well.”
Q: You mentioned earlier that selling Xabi Alonso made things quite difficult. Rafa brought in Alberto Aquilani. Why do you think he couldn’t capture the form we saw in Italy?
DK: “It was a completely different league for Aquilani. Aquilani was definitely a good player, you could see that in training. When I came from the Eredivisie, it was a big transition – even if Serie A is one of the toughest leagues in Europe, the style of play is completely different.
“Look at Thiago when he came to Liverpool. Before he came, he was one of the best midfielders in the world, but he needed time to adapt to the style of not only Liverpool, but also the PL. The same thing happened with Aquilani.
Q: Virgil Van Dijk – a lot of fans are saying he doesn’t seem to be showing the same form he showed a couple of years ago. Do you think he will recapture that form?
DK: “People forget that Van Dijk came from a very tough injury. It takes time to recover from that, and I think he already did a great job to recover from that. Liverpool’s other players need to get the best out of themselves, and I think VVD is determined to get back to his best. I watched the first two games he played, and, with Konate, he played very well and did an amazing job.
“Even in the Newcastle game, he was in control in defence. He was also comfortable on the ball. However, after 28 minutes he made a small mistake and got a red card – a harsh one in my opinion. However, that’s football and if you made a small mistake as a defender or goalkeeper, it can cost you.
“He’s doing very well, the team is getting results, and he’s now the captain. I’ve got a good hope he can get back to his best. I think he’s looking forward to proving people wrong. He’s still a great defender, but his best was at such a high level. He’s still one of the best defenders. Liverpool also play with a high line, and that makes it hard.”
Q: Wolves are next, but next are West Ham – who at the moment are looking very good. Their aerial duels, James Ward Prowse’s delivery, and tall players make them solid. Will that worry Liverpool?
DK: “West Ham will be a very tough game. I learned to take one game at a time, and hopefully the players are focused on Wolves. West Ham are a very tough team and they’ve done very well. They did very well in Europe last season and they’ve had a great start to the season.
“It will be a great test for Liverpool. Some very tough fixtures will come up, However, the Wolves game after the break will be their next test. I’m very confident, but Liverpool will have no easy games.”
Q: You mentioned John Terry was the toughest opponent you played against, but who was the toughest goalkeeper you played against?
DK: “I still have nightmares about Casillas! There were very good goalkeepers in the Premier League. Van Der Sar was a great ‘keeper, and we played a lot of games against him, but I also played with him for the national team.
“Casillas was tough, his save from Robben in the World Cup final still haunts me. That save won Spain the World Cup. He was a great keeper in his time.”
Q: You mentioned that final. Holland were criticized for their physical approach in that game. Do you think that was fair?
DK “What do you expect when you’re trying to win the World Cup? We tried to do everything to win the game. There were a few challenges that shouldn’t have happened, but the emotions and adrenaline get to you. It happens.
Like I said in interviews, we were very tough in the game, but after we got beat in the final, we were very disappointed, but the Dutch and Spanish players were drinking beers after and showing each other a lot of respect. That’s what football is all about – you shake each others’ hands and move on.”