Teemu Pukki: From failures in Europe to Finland great – the fall and rise of the Norwich striker
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By Gary Rose
After concluding a discussion Finland prime minister Antti Rinne shook the hand of France president Emmanuel Macron got up at the stately Elysee Palace in Paris presented him.
It was a Teemu Pukki soccer shirt.
This is Finland strikers and the in-form Norwich reputation at the instant that his name even makes it onto the agenda of top-level political meetings, alongside trade deals and problems.
Together with 44 goals in 66 games for club and country since joining the Canaries on the summer of 2018, Pukki is now arguably one of the players in world football at the moment.
Nevertheless, it was not always that way for a participant once callednot a comprehensive disaster following a less-than-impressive stint at Celtic.
As Pukki looks to make it six goals in seven matches for Finland when they confront Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday (17:00 BST) and move them a step closer to qualifying for their first key tournament, BBC Sport charts the fall and rise of Norwichs talismanic striker.
The narrative of pukki is not one but rather a player who always had the capability but didnt find himself the situation.
Having impressed in his biography from an early age – he even made his debut for his hometown group at 16 and was appointed Finlands Young Player of the Year in his first season – Pukki captured the attention of several international scouts while playing for Finland in an Under-17s tournament in Portugal.
What he had then was his amazing timing in his runs behind the defence, says Flemming Berg, who had been at the championship working as a scout for Chelsea. He has those qualities today and he had them as a teen.
Clubs were on the watch for the next superstar with the career of possibly Finlands biggest player, Jari Litmanen, heading towards its conclusion. Pukki was encouraged for a trial with Chelsea and there was also rumoured interest from Sevilla and Juventus although nothing came from it.
In the end it was and, in 2008, Pukki combined Sevilla.
Pukki fell victim to getting too far too soon. He came at the town as a hopeful 17 year old, living with his mommy in a small flat while being not able to speak the language.
After a year or two in the youth team of the La Liga side, the manager who signed him Diego Rodriguez – was sacked and Pukki found himself even more. He returned to Finland to try and kick-start his livelihood.
After a spell in HJK Helsinki, Pukki was offered the opportunity for playing in one of Europes big leagues this time together with German club Schalke.
Despite scoring twice on his debut, circumstances hindered his progress. Ahead of Pukki were Spanish legend Raul and Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who would go on to appreciate one of their most prolific seasons of their career with 48 goals in 48 games. Pukki was off it from the beginning.
A move to Celtic followed there that he playing out of position and struggled with both the leagues physicality.
The thing with him at Celtic was that he was played off the left hand side, he was not played at a central function or not very often, former Celtic and Norwich striker Chris Sutton tells BBC Sport. That certainly didnt help – he is a number nine plus he has such excellent movement
Keeping tabs on his improvement, nevertheless, was Berg, who was currently employed as a scout for Brondby.
The matter with Teemu would be, even though he did not score many goals at Schalke and Celtic, his goals-per-minutes ratio was actually good at these clubs, he states.
The statistics spoke for themselves. While to a goal every other game he averaged in the Celtic In Schalke his ratio was nearly on par with his album in Norwich.
I knew that his agent and thought I would try and persuade him Brondby, adds Berg. I didnt believe there would be an opportunity as it was a small step down but they stated yes.
A measure down it could have been ultimately it was the move that created Pukki the player.
At the club he would come to function under coach Alexander Zorniger, that believed Pukki had to become fitter so he would do defensive job – to fall deep, pick the ball up and help build strikes.
I was probably a bit lazy, Pukki told the Eastern Daily Press earlier this year. I wasnt performing the defensive job I should get done, and that is 1 thing Zorniger taught me. When I do defensive function well it always helps my offensive game.
Suddenly, all that potential which had laid dormant was published. Pukki scored again and 48 goals in 90 matches for Brondby curiosity about his services was large.
Not able to agree a new contract in Brondby, several clubs expressed an interest but it was Norwich who suggested the most appealing deal for Pukki, especially given the expressive, passing style of football that the Canaries played that suited his game longer.
After scoring 29 goals in 43 Championship games to help Norwich win promotion into the Premier League, he has six goals in eight games with Norwich continuing to keep religion in the system that has served them, and Pukki well.
Am I surprised 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 the task now is to allow him to maintain that. You have a good chance of staying up if it is possible to find a person to score you 15 Premier league targets. Together with six goals already he is on his way to that.
Pukkis form over the last year has witnessed his fame.
Hes got a showcased on front pages of papers and magazines lately while his goalscoring exploits – the promotion of and Norwich – have contributed TV managers.
Liverpool are definitely the hottest team in the country but Pukkis performances have contributed to an increase in need for Norwich matches to be shown live.
Tero Vaatainen is part of a group of fans calledFinnish Canaries, who gather in the city of Tampere to watch they can, Norwich matches.
Right now he is massive, he tells BBC Sport. After every Norwich match theres one story about it in most of the papers, focusing on the way Pukki playedwith.
Hes getting to Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen level in terms of a popular player in Finland.
1 thing which would elevate Pukki could be if he can score the goals to flame Finland into Euro 2020.
Following Saturdays game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland host Armenia. Automatic eligibility would be all but guaranteed by victories from each of those games for the squad of Markku Kanerva.
It would also push him closer to exceeding Litmanen because the record goalscorer of Finland. Pukki has 20 objectives.
I feel that would be the clinching point, adds Vaatainen. He would go beyond Litmanen and Hyypia and some of the others
From top leagues into being on the verge of perhaps becoming Finland player is, by the standards of anyone, be some turnaround.
If you have a take a look at his or her back-story, there have been many clubs that have fancied him and it has not happened because of him, BBC pundit and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson says.
That is the thing – finally, if youve got that ability, which undoubtedly he has, it will happen to you personally. And obviously its happened because of him in the end.
Additional reporting by Chris Bevan
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