25/10/2019

Teemu Pukki: From failures in Europe to Finland great – the fall and rise of the Norwich striker


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By Gary Rose
BBC Sport
Soon after finishing a conversation on combating climate change, Finland prime minister Antti Rinne shook the hand of France president Emmanuel Macron got up from his chair in the stately Elysee Palace in Paris and then presented a present to him.
This is a Teemu Pukki football shirt.
Such is Finland strikers and the in-form Norwich standing at the instant that his name makes it onto the schedule of top-level political meetings, alongside commerce deals and environmental issues.
Considering joining the Canaries at the summer of 2018 Together with 44 goals in 66 games for club and country, Pukki is now one of the players in world football right now.
But it was not always that way to get a player once described asnot a complete disaster following a less-than-impressive stint at Celtic.
Since Pukki looks to make it six goals in seven games for Finland if they face Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday (17:00 BST) and transfer them a step closer to qualifying for their first big tournament, BBC Sport charts the fall and rise of Norwichs talismanic striker.
The narrative of pukki is perhaps not one of a participant who blossomed in life but instead a player who always had the capability however, until recently, did not find himself the circumstances to flourish.
Having amazed in his biography from a young age – that he even made his debut for his hometown team at 16 and was appointed Finlands Young Player of the Year in his first season – Pukki captured the eye of several foreign scouts while playing for Finland in an Under-17s championship in Portugal.
What he had then was his incredible timing in his runs behind the defence, says Flemming Berg, who had been at the tournament working as a scout for Chelsea. He has those qualities today and he had them as a teen.
Clubs have been on the lookout for the Finnish celebrity Together with the career of Finlands greatest player, Jari Litmanen, heading towards its conclusion. Pukki was encouraged to get a trial with Chelsea and there was rumoured interest from Sevilla and Juventus, nothing came of it.
It had been and, in 2008, Sevilla was joined by Pukki.
Pukki fell victim to becoming too far. He arrived in the Spanish city as a cynical 17 year old, living with his mommy at a small while being unable to talk the language.
After a year or two at the La Liga sides childhood team, the manager who signed him – Diego Rodriguez – was sacked and Pukki discovered himself even more out of favour. He returned to Finland to attempt to kick-start his livelihood.
After a successful spell in HJK Helsinki, Pukki was offered the chance of playing in one of the big leagues of Europe this time together with German club Schalke.
Despite scoring two on his debut, situation again hindered his progress. Ahead of Pukki were Spanish legend Raul and Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who would go on to enjoy one of the seasons of their career. Pukki was up against it from the outset.
A movement to Celtic followed there he playing out of place and fought with the physicality of the league.
The thing with him Celtic was that he was played the left hand side, he wasnt played at an essential role or at least not very frequently, former Celtic and Norwich striker Chris Sutton tells BBC Sport. That certainly did not help – hes a number nine and hes such excellent movement.
Keeping tabs on his progress was Berg, who was now working as a scout for Brondby.
The matter with Teemu would be, although he did not score many goals in Schalke and Celtic, his goals-per-minutes ratio was really great at those clubs, he states.
The data clearly spoke for themselves. At Schalke that his goals-per-minutes ratio was nearly on par with his record in Norwich, while in Celtic he still averaged up to a goal every other game.
I knew that his representative and thought Id try and get him Brondby, adds Berg. I didnt believe there could be a chance because it was a bit of a step down but they said yes.
A step down it could have been but ultimately it was the movement that produced Pukki the player.
At the club hed come to function under trainer Alexander Zorniger, who felt Pukki had to become more healthy so that he would do work that is more defensive – pick the ball up to fall deep and help assemble strikes.
I was a bit lazy, Pukki informed the Eastern Daily Press earlier this season. I was not doing the defensive work I should have done, and that is one thing Zorniger educated me. While I do defensive function well it always helps my offensive game.
All potential that had seemingly laid dormant for decades was released. Pukki scored 48 goals in 90 matches for Brondby and after again curiosity about his services had been large.
Not able to agree that a new contract at Brondby clubs expressed an interest but it was Norwich who proposed the deal to Pukki given departure style of soccer, the expressive the Canaries played that suited his game longer.
After scoring 29 goals in 43 Championship games to help Norwich win promotion hes six goals in eight matches with Norwich continued to keep religion in the system which has served also and Pukki, them.
Am I amazed by how well hes done? Yes Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer tells BBC Sport.
Hes had an excellent start from the Premier League but that the task is for him to maintain that. If it is possible to find a person to score you 15 Premier league targets youve got a very good probability of staying up. Together with six goals already he is on his way into this.
Pukkis shape during the past year has seen his fame.
He has a showcased on the front pages of newspapers and magazines while his goalscoring exploits – the advertising of and Norwich – have given TV supervisors in Finland one or two concerns.
Liverpool are undoubtedly the hottest team in the nation however Pukkis performances have led to a rise in demand for Norwich matches to be shown live.
Tero Vaatainen is part of a set of fans known asFinnish Canaries, who gather to see whenever they can, Norwich matches.
Right now hes enormous, he tells BBC Sport. After every Norwich game there is at least one story on it in most of the papers, focusing on the way Pukki playedwith.
Hes almost getting to Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen level in terms of a favorite player in Finland.
1 thing which would raise Pukki to the identical level as those two could be when he can score the goals to fire Finland into Euro 2020.
Tuesday Finland sponsor Armenia. Victories from both of these games would ensure automatic qualification for the squad of Markku Kanerva.
It would also push him closer to exceeding Litmanen as Finlands record goalscorer. Pukki has 20 global goals.
I think that are the clinching point, adds Vaatainen. Hed go past Litmanen and Hyypia and some of the others.
From top leagues to become on the verge of becoming Finland player would be, by the standards of anyone, be a few turnaround.
If you look at his back-story, there have been many clubs that have fancied him and it has not happened for him personally , BBC pundit and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson says.
Thats the thing – eventually, if you have that skill, which definitely he has, it is going to happen to you personally. And of course its happened because of him at the end
Additional reporting by Chris Bevan
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