LUKAS Jutkiewicz didn’t make the flight to Marbella with Boro. He has been at Burnley today talking over personal terms and taking a medical instead pending a transfer that should be tied up before close of play today.
The Gazette understands the deal will include a hefty up-front fee with built in appearance and performance add-ons and bonuses that could mean Boro get between £2 to £2.25m… which is a great bit of business for a player who was surplus to requirements.
Here’s something I did over the weekend about why Juke is still a frontman in demand despite never really fitting in at the Riverside.
SIX MONTHS ago, when Lukas Jutkiewicz was first linked with a move away from Teesside, a queue of volunteer taxi-drivers quickly formed outside the Riverside.
Those would-be chauffeurs eager to usher him out of Boro back then will be staggered to see the striker now set his Satnav for the dream destination of the Premier League.
They were pretty surprised to watch the goals fly in during a successful loan spell at Bolton last term too. He cracked in seven goals in 20 games for Wanderers to spark a sudden surge in interest.
Cash-strapped Bolton were desperate to take him to the Reebok but can’t come close to Boro’s price tag. But his net-busting purple patch attracted new suitors too – Wolves were keen but never firmed up their interest with a serious bid and Boro weren’t th eremotest bit interested in a suggested cash plus swap deal involving Kevin Doyle. Derby made a bid – believed to be £1m – that fell short of Boro’s price-tag… but Premier League Burnley finally made their move today after a couple of week’s playing footsie.
The newly-promoted top-flight outfit have made a bid that with add-ons and bonuses could be worth between £2m and £2.2m to Boro which represents decent business for a player that looked a forlorn figure on the bench back in January.
The only other formal bid came from Steve McClaren. That technocrat functional coaches like Sean Dyche and former boss McClaren both covet an ungainly hitman with a distinctly average second-tier strike rate has left plenty of Boro supporters scratching their heads and crying: “But he’s been useless at Boro.”
As Tony Mowbray’s reign ended in a face-palm flurry of missed sitters from the frontman, the consensus among Boro fans was Jutkiewicz was not up to scratch in the Championship let alone the higher level.
He was a bit of a handful with his back to goal and was willing to pick up bruises for the team, but when he turned he was easily brushed aside, a big lad who was bullied off the ball by even limited central defenders.
He would make promising runs into the box only to stumble and shin it high or wide.
And he lacked the mobility or first touch to link up with Mowbray’s fluid but mono-paced midfield and their windscreen-wiper passing. Mowbray’s last game in charge was a chaotic defeat at rock-bottom Barnsley most memorable for the way a fragile defence were torn apart in a shameful first half.
But before the Oakwell implosion Jutkiewicz was through on goal in a perfect position but somehow blazed wide. It was a familiar sight.
The arrival of Aitor Karanka saw Jutkiewicz, a £1.2m buy from Coventry in January 2011, pushed down the pecking order. The targetman couldn’t play the way Karanka wanted, as a spearhead in a 4-2-3-1 system that demanded constant mobility to close down opposing defenders and an instinct to drop deep to link with midfield.
With the best will in the world the new shape and tempo didn’t suit the Jutkiewicz skill-set.
Karanka tried Kei Kamara up front instead, then enigmatic Marvin Emnes and finally former Darlington striker Curtis Main, who offered energy and relentless enthusiasm in harrying full-backs but lacked a cutting edge. Under the Spanish supremo Jutkiewicz made just five starts and came off the bench four times in three frustrating months before a January loan move to Bolton that liberated him.
At Bolton Jutkiewicz was playing as part of a system that suited him. He was the bustling big man in penalty box pairing with either Jermaine Beckford or Joe Mason in the nippy role feeding off the knockdowns. And the goals flowed as Jutkiewicz not only started to score but was claiming assists with obvious glee.
That was a role Boro fans rarely saw him play as even before Karanka, Mowbray favoured him in a lone role in either a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3. He was never played to his strengths.
Coaches and scouts know that, hence the interest now. But fans only see the statistics: at Boro he got 15 goals in 70 appearances, a distinctly average strike rate of one every four and a half games. Given there was a hot streak of 10 in 21 games during the first half of Mowbray’s first full season the rest of the stats look pretty sparse.
But he brings to the party some key skills that many coaches value. Especially in the attritional Championship. You can see why Bolton want him. And at a push Derby, who will to grind out results at times next term if they are to repeat or better the play-offs.
But Burnley? Could Jutkiewicz flourish at that level. Is he good enough? Dyche clearly thinks so. Sometimes it isn’t about how good you are on a technical level but how suitable a fit you are on a tactical one.
Burnley play with two up front and last term Danny Ings and Sam Vokes terrorised the division, both breaking the 20-goal barrier. But they had no cover up front at all and if they are to survive in the Premier League they must address that.
They have targeted £6m-rated Watford man Troy Deeney to shadow Ings – himself coveted by bigger clubs – and you could see that Jutkiewicz would be a neat fit in the more robust Vokes role. And Vokes is still struggling back to fitness after doing a cruciate in March so Burnley need someone to play in his role until he is back and who would be willing to drop back to the bench afterwards.
And they will also have one eye on the future. If Clarets chiefs are being realistic they will make contingency plans for relegation and the following years’ promotion push powered by parachute payments. In a year from now Jutkiewicz could be leading the line in a renewed Championship campaign.
For Boro the exit of Jutkiewicz is good business. Not only have they made a profit on a player who looked surplus to requirements but will have also freed up some wages. He could well play pay for Kike.
With the exit of Marvin Emnes to Swansea too Boro have unloaded two strikers that did not fit Karanka’s system, brought in one that the boss feels should and freed up space in the squad and the wage-bill to completely reshape the front line.