Having been touted as one of the most exciting young players in Europe over the past couple of years, Son Heung-Min finally made his move to the English Premier League as Tottenham Hotspur shelled out £22m (€30m) in their bid to challenge for the top four positions.
The €30m received by Leverkusen is a club record transfer surpassing Andre Schurrle’s €21m (£18m) transfer to Chelsea in 2013. Incidentally, Son was signed to replace Schurrle for €10m that summer.
The 23-year-old is currently the Asian footballer of the year and will have a major commercial boost for Spurs. He is the face of several huge brands like LG Electronics who became Leverkusen’s shirt sponsors after he moved from Hamburg. They agreed a three-year deal worth €6m a year though it will not be renewed now that Son has left.
He has a number of lucrative sponsorship deals to his name despite being only 23. Add to that the vast fan base in South Korea which is ready to be exploited by Daniel Levy and Tottenham’s stock will only rise in North London.
Apart from making FourFourTwo’s Top 50 players in Asia, Son has also been named Footballer of the Year by the Korean FA.
However, Son is yet to complete a mandatory twenty-one months of military service before 2020 as South Koreans are required to do before the age of 28. This gives him little over four years at White Hart Lane but a podium finish at the Olympics or gold at Asian games will exempt Son from that responsibility, both of which his country have achieved in the last three years, albeit in his absence.
Son did not participate in South Korea’s bronze medal squad in London or their 2014 Asian Games triumph as he wasn’t released by Hoffenheim for the latter. However, there are a few opportunities still left. Apart from the Olympics next year in Rio, there are the 2018 Asian Games and then the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.
There is a loophole to delay military services by ten years which was exploited by former Arsenal player, Park Chu Young’s lawyers owing to the three years he spent in Monaco although Son would prefer to wriggle his way out of this by the former route.
List of Asian Players in the Premier League on the Opening Day of the 2015/16 season
Ki Sung-yueng – Swansea City – South Korea
Lee Chung-yong – Crystal Palace – South Korea
Mark Schwarzer – Leicester City – Australia
Maya Yoshida – Southampton – Japan
Mile Jedinak – Crystal Palace – Australia
Shinji Okazaki – Leicester City – Japan
Son arrived at Hamburg’s youth academy at the age of 16 before making his goalscoring debut in his Bundesliga against Cologne in October 2010.
His performances in the Under-17 World Cup caught the eyes of many scouts where he scored two more goals than a certain Neymar. But he signed a new contract with Hamburg stating that he had an option to move to England back then.
After impressing for three years as a bright talent, he became Leverkusen’s record signing in 2013 and found his feet immediately at his new club. Operating in the inside forward position on the left wing, Son went on to achieve a goal rate of 1 in every 2.5 games. He is one of only four players to score 10 or more Bundesliga goals in each of the past three seasons along with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Max Kruse.
Son’s 11 Bundesliga goals last season helped his club qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row. His stand-out performance of the season came when he scored a hat trick at home in a madcap loss against Wolfsburg with the game finishing 5-4 in favour of the visitors.
He was an integral part of the frenetic, high pressing attacking game at Leverkusen which was showcased in their 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid. The scoreline, however, did not do justice to their dominance over the then Spanish champions.
They were unlucky to bow out on penalties after a narrow one goal reverse, and they will take part in the competition again this season having edged out Lazio in the play-offs.
Having directly contributed to forty-one goals in his last ninety-five Bundesliga appearances, he is much required in a Spurs’ set-up that were over reliant on Harry Kane for goals last season.
The versatile South Korean is a mobile forward capable of playing across the front three positions but has played the majority of his career darting in from the left wing.
He has a tremendous work ethic, akin to his compatriot Park Ji Sung and will fit in perfectly in Mauricio Pochettino’s high pressing attacking game.
The number seven’s tendency to dribble, cut inside and shoot will add a new weapon in Spurs’ armoury and there will be many a magic moment in store for the White Hart Lane faithful, something which Erik Lamela couldn’t deliver on a consistent basis.
Though the South Korean can play as a wide player, he will also be able to support Kane as Tottenham’s striking options upfront and benefit from Eriksen’s vision to make his side a real attacking force.
What the move to England means for Son
For someone who does not speak English that well, the initial few weeks could prove to be difficult especially considering the muggy London weather. But once he settles, Son has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Parki Ji Sung who made his name at Manchester United and become a Premier League star.
Park won four Premier League titles along with a Champions League and even though it’s a tall order to overcome those achievements, Son is skilled enough to help propel Spurs into the Champions League.
He will become the seventh South Korean to score in the Premier League when he opens his Spurs’ account and can become the highest Asian scorer in a single Premier League season if he overcomes Ki Sung Yueng’s tally of eight goals last season
“You can’t become a good player without practising the little things, the essential basics, over and over again” – Son
Under Pochettino, the 23-year-old will continue his footballing development with hunger and desire en route to becoming a legend in Asian football.
Spurs will be a serious threat to the fourth spot, with their swashbuckling, attacking team complemented by solid additions in the form of Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld and Clinton N’Jie and the addition of Victor Wanyama also a genuine possibility.
Son will have a major role to play in the coming few seasons and has all the makings of becoming a star player at White Hart Lane.