Dirk Kuijt and Salomon Kalou are one of the UEFA Cup's finest strike partnerships.
By Berend Scholten & Jim Wirth
Since winning the UEFA Cup in 2001/02, Dutch giants Feyenoord have not been going through the easiest of times.
In every season since 2001/02, Feyenoord have finished third in the Eredivisie, trailing PSV Eindhoven and AFC Ajax, while under current coach Ruud Gullit, they lie fourth in the league, having been leapfrogged by a resurgent AZ Alkmaar side.
None the less, the emergence of an inspirational attacking partnership in Dirk Kuijt and Salomon Kalou has provided reason for some optimism at the De Kuip stadium, and as Sporting Clube de Portugal visit Rotterdam for the second leg of their UEFA Cup last 32 tie holding a slender 2-1 lead, a European trophy could be looming.
"Before I leave Feyenoord I want to win a European cup," Kalou told uefa.com, while Kuijt added: "My dream is always to win the national title with Feyenoord and of course the UEFA Cup. That will be difficult but if we can win one of those prizes I will be happy."
A late developer, 24-year-old Kuijt is only beginning to make a name for himself after joining Feyenoord from Eredivisie rivals FC Utrecht. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Kalou, the younger brother of AJ Auxerre striker Bonaventure Kalou, is regarded as one of Europe's hottest young striking properties.
The two have found their playing styles complementary, with Kuijt's finishing instincts meshing well with his young strike partner's vision and creativity. "I am a striker who makes goals and assists but I am different from Kalou who is an all-action striker like Ronaldinho or Henry," explained Kuijt.
"I like to make things happen," added Kalou. "If I can score a goal that is great but to make an assist is even better." That combination of skills has seen Ivorian international Kalou and newly-capped Dutch international Kuijt become the most potent strike partnership in Dutch football.
Gullit - who was a fabulous front-man in his time - has been a positive influence on both players. "Gullit was a big striker and we can learn a lot from him," said Kuijt. Kalou added: "You listen to him because you want to be like him. When he gives me a compliment I feel proud and I want to give my best."
The former AC Milan and Chelsea FC player has been watching his two strikers closely and is delighted with their development. Of Kuijt he said: "I always compare him with [former Manchester United FC and Wales striker] Mark Hughes - the strength, the build, the technique. He still has a lot to learn because he still wastes a lot of energy on things that are not important."
Kalou, meanwhile, has his own problems. "You can see he still has not got the responsibility that comes with people knowing how good he is," said Gullit. "That comes now. Now he has made a name for himself people will look at him in a different way. He will be kicked a little bit more but he is a great talent."
Speculation has linked Kalou with an imminent move to England with one of Gullit's old side's, Chelsea, having been named as potential suitors, but Kuijt is not looking beyond his home country for the time being - especially since becoming part of Marco van Basten's new-look national team.
More UEFA Cup success with Feyenoord would doubtless cement his position in the Dutch consciousness, while for his young partner, the sky really is the limit.