John Duerden says the presence of Son Heung-min means that an injury to Harry Kane is less of a problem to Spurs than England.
Fans back home in South Korea when flicking through the hundreds of channels available on Saturday evenings or midweek mornings, can easily see if Son Heung-min is playing for Tottenham Hotspur. When he is on the pitch, there is a small picture of his smiling face in the top corner that disappears when he is taken off.
This does not, by itself, mean that Son is especially famous or popular at home, similar televisual updates have been provided for all the country’s exports to Europe over the years – from the world famous at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to those who played for Wigan or West Brom. Yet there are less casual channel-surfers these days, more and more are tuning in to see his latest exploits in England and Europe.
And there are more and more of exploits to be followed. Another two goals from Son on Sunday means that the season from a personal point of view is going from strength to strength for the attacker. Five goals in the past three games, 16 in 27 starts in the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League tells its own story though there is much more to it than that.
After arriving in England from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2015 for a record fee for any Asian player – over $30 million – Son took a while to settle. He really got going in the 2016-17 season when his goals and assists started to pile up. And this season, he has moved up a level once again.
In short, Son has been one of the players of the season in one of the best leagues in the world. There is no doubt that the EPL is an elite competition and is likely to have three teams in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League and that is quite an achievement. Some of the best coaches in the world are working in the bigger clubs in England and there are plenty of world-class opponents for Son to test himself against.
6 – Son Heung-Min has scored six goals in his last four games in all competitions for Spurs, as many as he did in his previous 19 combined. Form. pic.twitter.com/KgL8RPN0gn
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 11, 2018
Son scored twice against Huddersfield in a 2-0 win on the previous weekend and then followed that up with two more in a 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday. In between was a goal against Juventus when the Korean was the most dangerous attacker on the pitch. Had one of those two defensive lapses in concentration not happened in the second-half then Spurs would be in the last eight and Son would be expecting to play.
There are no doubters any more in England or Europe, just a growing number of fans as this 25 year-old continues to excel at the highest levels of the world game on an increasingly regular basis. Consistency throughout the season as a whole – in his years in Germany with Hamburg and Leverkusen the player often started well before fading as the campaign progressed – is now being achieved.
It could be that a move away from Spurs to a true giant of European football is the best thing for the next stage of Son’s career, especially as his time is limited with his military duty in South Korea due to start in the next three years or so. Son does not have the time of others to wait for the Spurs project to come to fruition, if it ever does. If the big prizes are what he seeks, then joining a team that regularly wins such trophies – and there would be takers – offers the quickest route.
For the short-term however, the injury to Harry Kane on Sunday against Bournemouth gives Son another chance to take centre-stage. Son up front as the main striker will give him more goals and headlines as he showed with his brace after the England striker left the pitch.
The biggest compliment to Son is that the absence of Kane, one of the top strikers in Europe, will not be as heavily lamented this season as it was last. In fact, it could be England that will be more worried about the chance of a lengthy lay-off for Kane than Tottenham.
Fans in North London know that they have one of the most feared forwards in the English Premier League to stop into the shoes of their striker. England supporters can’t be quite as sure.
Son is Asia’s biggest star at the moment and playing at the highest levels of European football certainly helps in terms of profile and popularity but there are few players from anywhere who can match Son in terms of goals, performances and impact.
With Son in the team, Spurs are not going to miss Harry Kane.