Words by Martin Lowe
Time to profile Asia’s biggest star, the household name amongst Asian football purists and now the European mainstream, a player with the pace, flexibility and clinical finishing needed to perform at the very top level.
A player whose quality nearly inspired a pretty ordinary attacking squad to Asian Cup glory before commanding a £25m move to the English Premier League. This man, of course, is South Korean trailblazer Son Heung-Min.
Some questioned the hefty figure, some are even questioning it now, but given his age and the level of performances he’s been putting in in the last year, it shouldn’t have come as a shock.
The former Hamburg man was an unquestionable star at Bayer Leverkusen, making a name for himself both domestically and in the Champions League. He signed off emphatically from the club with a stunning hat trick against Wolfsburg and a brace against Padderborn, as his summer exit ever loomed.
On the international front, he was even more devastating in front of goal, with greater consistency. In Australia, but for injury and a little more luck, he’d quite easily fought for the player of tournament accolade.
Despite the in-out nature of his spell in Australia, he contributed at critical progression stages. A brace against Uzbekistan in the quarters opened the floodgates in a previously tight looking encounter, while his equaliser in the final could and on another day would’ve seen a whole different story against the hosts and eventual champions Australia.
He hadn’t stopped there and continued to produce the goods in Korean red going into World Cup qualification. Again, he’s been in and out, mainly to be savoured rather than through injury, but he’s still recorded 6 goals in four matches, without too much sweat being broken.
It’s been one of those years for Son, savoured for Korea at times, while continuing in the initial stages of bedding in with Tottenham Hotspur. His initial few months with the Spurs have been stunted somewhat by injury and high performance of his teammates.
Despite this, his introduction – notably in the Europa League and his return in the last month – have showed great promise that Spurs fans have already taken to their hearts. Let’s just hope 2016 brings Son some greater amounts of sustained pitch time.
Highlight of the Year: Signing for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer
In August we profiled the electric Korean as his move to England was slowly being finalised. Back then we were already singing his praises for his showings for Korea and Bayer, but we all knew that this was a special moment in the 22 year old’s career.
It will likely have been seen as a turning point in transfer activity of Asian players to England. Previously the Park Ji-Sung mould of an energetic “11th man” was the perceived norm, especially importing from East Asia. Son’s signing hopefully is about to show the largest football audience what extra qualities Asian players have to offer.