Teemu Pukki: Local superstar

Finish Players, La Liga, Premier League

On November 15, 2019, Teemu Pukki did what Jari Littmanen, arguably the greatest Finnish footballer ever, never managed to do. He qualified, with his team, for a major international final tournament. Fans rushed onto the field and fireworks were set off. Goalkeeper Hradecky proposed to establish November 15thas a national holidayfor the future.

Finland took the spoils with a 3-0 victory over Liechtenstein. Teemu Pukki made an important contribution to the success with ten goals in the qualifying series. Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne was so proud of him that he gave French President Emmanuel Macron a signed Pukki T-shirt as a present.

Pukki is hardly an international star. Norwich City, his club played in the Championship last season. In the second highest football league in England, Pukki did have a fantastic season last year. With 26 goals, he played an indispensable role in the championship of The Canaries, who will therefore play in the Premier League again next season.

Earlier, during the start of the 2019-20 season, Pukki had already experienced another high point in his career at the highest level in England. Just promoted with his Norwich City side, he was briefly the Premier League’s top scorer. After that, he and his team were relegated.

Pukki has had many failures over the course of his career. In 2008 he seems to be making his dream come true. He makes his debut in the Spanish League at the age of eighteen, following in the footsteps of his famous compatriot Jari Litmanen.

It ends in a huge deception, because Pukki will only play one game for FC Sevilla.

In an interview with the British daily Telegraph, he later says: ‘I was only a teenager. The move was too much for me. I lived in Seville, far from home. The climate was much hotter than in Finland. My mother had taken a sabbatical to live with me in Spain. She helped me a lot, but I struggled with the language barrier. At that age I was much more shy than I am today. I had to grow up quickly there.’

After a stopover in his home country at HJK Helsinki, Pukki takes another leap abroad in the Bundesliga with Schalke and then plays for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, failing to convince. In Germany, he scores twice in his debut game, but ultimately only eight times in two seasons. Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are above him in the hierarchy. In Scotland as a teammate of Virgil van Dijk he plays on the left wing and scores only seven goals.

Pukki decides to try his luck Denmark. At Brøndby he finds his self-confidence again. He has scored 118 goals there in four seasons.

Norwich will take him to the Championship in 2018, the second highest level in England. There he becomes top scorer and he is promoted with the Canaries. Pukki says he has found his family at Norwich. ‘Teemu Pukki Baby’, the adoring fans sing to the tune of the Human League hit Don’t you want me baby.

On June 4, the whole of Finland breathed a sigh of relief when Pukki came on in the 61st minute in the 1-0 lost game against Estonia. It looks like the home superstar will be fit in time to compete in Finland’s first ever game at a major final tournament on Saturday, June 12.

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