"I had such a great time there," Dirk Kuyt tells UEFA.com as returns to Fenerbahçe as captain of Feyenoord, determined to battle on with the club "which has always been in my heart".
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Feyenoord captain Dirk Kuyt is delighted to be facing one of his old sides, Fenerbahçe, on matchday two of the UEFA Europa League. The 36-year-old told UEFA.com about his time in Turkey and the spirit that has made him a terrace hit at all of his clubs.
UEFA.com: Feyenoord are taking on Fenerbahçe, one of your old clubs; do you remember your time with them fondly?
Dirk Kuyt: When I decided to leave Liverpool there were a lot of clubs in Europe I could have gone to, but I wanted to go to a club that was ambitious – and then Fenerbahçe came along. I had such a great time there, my family as well. The people really looked after me, and I was very successful. We won the cup, we won the league and we did well in Europe – for the first time in the history of the club we reached [a major European semi-final, in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League]. It's great to see how passionately the fans experienced that European adventure, that's how it should be.
Turkey, Fenerbahçe, is a totally different country, a different culture to what I was used to in the Netherlands and in England. It made me a different person, and I'm glad I took up that challenge.
UEFA.com: You left Feyenoord for Liverpool in 2006, and in 2015 you came back. What does this club mean to you?
Kuyt: Feyenoord is my club. I had three fantastic years in my first period here. And I always said, maybe a bit too loud, that I would love to return here some day. I felt I still had a job to do here at this club, which has always been in my heart. I have four children, and the boys especially are crazy about Feyenoord. Feyenoord are part of our family, and that's always been so. I also didn't win any trophies with Feyenoord the first time, and I really wanted that, so I'm happy we've won the Dutch Cup now.
UEFA.com: You and Feyenoord coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst were team-mates with the national team. How does it feel to have him as your manager?
Kuyt: I have to call him coach, and that's a bit weird, but I'm really impressed. He's doing a fantastic job. And it's great for him of course that in his first season he's already won a trophy, because that hadn't happened for the club in eight years. And he wants more, he wants to keep improving. If there's one person I respect, it's Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
UEFA.com: You are still going strong at 36; do you feel you are still improving?
Kuyt: This is the final part of my career, although it doesn't feel that way. I really enjoy playing football so much that I do anything to stay as fit as possible. I'm still very ambitious, and as long as I'm fit and strong and enjoying myself, I want to continue.
UEFA.com: Throughout your career – at Utrecht, Feyenoord, Liverpool and Fenerbahçe – you have been a terrace favourite. Why do you think that is?
Kuyt: In a way, all the clubs I've played for are similar. Rotterdam, Liverpool and Istanbul are all port cities, but they're also cities where people have to work very hard, and I've always been able to identify with that. Working hard – no crap – just go for it and do whatever you can for the team. That's something people have appreciated over the years.