What are the chances of Bolton Wanderers signing Lukas Jutkiewicz from Middlesbrough?
WANDERERS re-started a Juke, which started the whole club singing – but would it be a tragedy if the striker did not remain at the Reebok?
Like Jay Spearing before him, loan star Lukas Jutkiewicz has proved to be the right man, in the right place, at the right time – helping the Whites stay alive in a difficult Championship campaign.
Whether he stays for good depends entirely on whether the Middlesbrough striker is available at the right price, with Dougie Freedman likely to be counting every penny beyond the first of May.
Plucked from the Boro bench in January, the 24-year-old has been a surprise success at Bolton, scoring his sixth goal in 12 starts in Saturday’s derby draw with Wigan Athletic.
That achievement has quite literally come at a cost for Freedman, though, with his chances of signing Jutkiewicz on a permanent basis hanging on his ability to haggle a fair price for his services this summer.
With 12 months remaining on his contract on Teesside, there are many Boro fans who would welcome the former Everton man back for another spell.
Aitor Karanka, his manager at the Riverside, seems slightly less sure, with the Spaniard keen to hold off any decision on selling him until the summer.
“I don't know what will happen with him - it is something for the future rather than now,” he said in a recent interview.
Word in the North East is that the Spaniard will look to remodel his strikeforce in the summer after loanee Danny Graham – also a target for Wanderers at one point - has failed to make much of an impact.
But Boro are under no pressure to sell, despite Jutkiewicz indicating that he sees his future lying elsewhere.
Wanderers have grown to rely rather heavily on his presence up front, an influence that has even extended to goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
When asked about how he had changed his own game since returning from injury, the Hungarian revealed that the striker’s presence had been a major influence.
“It’s so important having him up there,” he said. “You know you have a target to aim at and that he is more often that not going to keep hold of the ball and it won’t be coming straight back at you.”
Spearing had a similarly profound influence in his first season at the Reebok, spent on loan from Liverpool.
After scooping the player-of-the-year award, the midfielder returned to Anfield to face an uncertain future with his boyhood club under Brendan Rogers.
It took a sizeable offer, thought to be worth £1.5million plus add ons, to convince the Reds to part with their man. A similar fee may well be necessary this summer when looking to secure Jutkiewicz.
Such investments, argues Freedman, are key to reviving Wanderers as a “trading club”.
And though most of his business last summer was done on the cheap – with Bosman frees such as Alex Baptiste and Marc Tierney – that well can clearly only be returned to a certain number of times.
Finances are tight and getting tighter. Wanderers will see their parachute payment reduced by half to £8million for the next two seasons, so must continue to reduce their wage bill and costs from the Premier League days.
Additionally, the spectre of Financial Fair Play looms large. Despite legal challenges in the offing to the controversial regulations it seems likely that Wanderers and several other dissenting Football League clubs will have to continue jumping through hoops whilst fighting the rule-makers.
All of which means a deal for Jutkiewicz, whilst longed for by fans and the man himself, is by no means a sure thing.
Freedman has already missed out on targets such as Kevin McNaughton, Craig Dawson and Liam Feeney because of their success on loan – he will be keen to avoid missing out on Jutkiewicz’s signature for the same reason.