Teemu Pukki: From failures in Europe to Finland great – the fall and rise of the Norwich striker
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From Gary Rose
Soon Finland prime minister Antti Rinne shook the hand of France president Emmanuel Macron got up from his seat at the Elysee Palace in Paris and presented him with a present.
It was a Teemu Pukki football shirt.
Such is Finland strikers and your in-form Norwich standing at the moment that his name makes it on the agenda of meetings, together with trade deals and environmental issues.
With 44 goals considering joining the Canaries on the summer of 2018, Pukki is now arguably among the players in world football right now.
Nevertheless, it wasnt always that way for a participant once described asnot a whole disaster after having a less-than-impressive stint in Celtic.
Since Pukki seems to make it six goals in seven matches for Finland whenever they face Bosnia and Herzegovina on Saturday (17:00 BST) and transfer them a step closer to qualifying for their first key championship, BBC Sport charts the fall and rise of Norwichs talismanic striker.
The narrative of pukki is not one but instead a player who had the ability however, until recently, did not find himself the proper circumstances.
Having amazed in his homeland from a young age – that he made his debut for his hometown team in 16 and was appointed Finlands Young Player of the Year in his first season – Pukki caught the attention of numerous foreign scouts while playing for Finland in an Under-17s championship in Portugal.
What he had afterward was his unbelievable timing in his runs on the other side of the defence, says Flemming Berg, who was at that tournament employed as a scout for Chelsea. Hes those qualities now and he had them as a teen.
With the career of possibly Finlands biggest player going towards its ending, clubs were on the lookout for the next celebrity. Pukki was invited for a trial with Chelsea and nothing came of it there was also rumoured interest.
It had been the side who made their movement , in 2008, Pukki joined Sevilla.
Pukki possibly fell victim to becoming too far. He arrived in the town as a year old, living with his mum in a flat while being not able to talk the language.
After a couple of years at the La Liga sides youth group, the manager who signed him – Diego Rodriguez – was sacked and Pukki discovered himself even more. He returned to Finland to try and kick-start his livelihood.
After a successful spell at HJK Helsinki, Pukki was offered the opportunity for playing one of the big leagues of Europe – this time with German club Schalke.
His progress was again hindered by circumstances, despite scoring on his debut. Ahead of all Pukki were Spanish legend Raul and Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, whod go on to appreciate one of the seasons of their career with 48 goals in 48 games. Pukki was up against it from the beginning.
A go to Celtic followed but there that he fought with the leagues physicality and carrying out of place.
The thing with him at Celtic was that he had been played the left hand , he wasnt played at an essential part or not very regularly, former Celtic and Norwich striker Chris Sutton tells BBC Sport. That certainly did not help – hes a number nine plus hes such fantastic movement
Keeping tabs on his improvement, nevertheless, was Berg, who currently worked as a scout for Brondby.
The matter with Teemu would be, although he didnt score many goals in Schalke and Celtic, his goals-per-minutes ratio was really great at these clubs, he says.
The numbers spoke on their own. While in Celtic he averaged around a goal every other game at Schalke his ratio was with his record in Norwich.
I understood that his agent and thought Id try and persuade him to Brondby, adds Berg. I did not think there could be an opportunity because it was a bit of a step down but they said yes.
A step down it may have been ultimately it was the movement that left Pukki the player he has become today.
At the club he would come to work under trainer Alexander Zorniger, that felt Pukki needed to become fitter he could do job that is defensive – pick the ball up to drop deep and help build attacks.
I was probably a bit idle, Pukki told the Eastern Daily Press earlier this season. I wasnt doing the defensive job I must get done, and that is 1 thing Zorniger taught me. While I do defensive work nicely it always helps my offensive game.
Unexpectedly, all potential that had seemingly laid dormant for years was published. Pukki scored more and 48 goals in 90 matches for Brondby curiosity about his services had been high.
Unable to agree that a new contract in Brondby clubs expressed an interest but it was Norwich who suggested the most appealing deal for Pukki, particularly given the expressive, departure style of soccer that the Canaries played suited his game more.
He has six goals in eight games with Norwich continued to keep faith in the system which has served also and Pukki, them after scoring 29 goals in 43 Championship matches to help Norwich win promotion into the Premier League.
Am I surprised by how well he has done? Yes Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer tells BBC Sport.
Hes had a very good start in the Premier League but the task now is to allow him to keep that. If it is possible to find someone to score you 15 Premier league goals you have a good likelihood of staying up. With six goals he is well on his way to that.
Pukkis shape over the last year has witnessed his fame.
He has a showcased on front pages of magazines and papers lately while his goalscoring exploits – and Norwichs promotion – have given TV supervisors.
Liverpool are definitely the hottest team in the country however the performances of Pukki have led to an increase in need for Norwich games to be shown.
Tero Vaatainen is part of a set of supporters known asFinnish Canaries, who gather at the city of Tampere to watch they can, Norwich matches.
Right now hes enormous, he tells BBC Sport. After every Norwich game theres at least one story on it in most of the newspapers, focusing on how Pukki played.
Hes almost getting to Sami Hyypia and Jari Litmanen degree in terms of a popular player in Finland.
If he can score the goals to flame Finland to Euro 2020 1 thing that would elevate Pukki could be.
Finland host Armenia Tuesday. Qualification would be all but guaranteed by victories from both of those games for Markku Kanervas squad.
It would also induce him closer to exceeding Litmanen as Finlands record goalscorer. Pukki has 12 supporting the Finland legend, 20 objectives.
I feel that are the clinching stage, adds Vaatainen. Hed go past Litmanen and Hyypia and a few of the others
From top leagues into be on the brink of becoming Finlands greatest player would be, by anyones standards, be a few turnaround.
If you have a take a look at his back-story, there have been quite a few clubs who have really fancied him and its not happened because of him BBC pundit and former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson says.
Thats the thing – finally, if you have that skill, which he has, it will happen for you. And of course it has happened because of him at the end.
Additional reporting by Chris Bevan
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