Son at the edge of glory
Madrid: As Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool draws ever closer, Tottenham Hotspur favourite Son Heung-min stands on the verge of capping what has already been a stellar season in truly sensational fashion.
A win for Spurs in the showpiece event would not only see Son conclude a truly impressive 2018-19 campaign on a distinct high, but also help the Chuncheon native break new ground for Asians plying their trade in Europe.
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Not that the global audience sure to be watching on would be too surprised. After all, since coming off the bench to replace Dele Alli at Newcastle United last August – Tottenham’s first game of the recently concluded English Premier League season – Son has excelled for club and country in the nine months that followed.
His performances have, quite rightly, earned the Korea Republic international rave reviews and seen the 26-year-old etch himself into the game’s record books, both of which are set to be repeated if Son can help guide Tottenham to success at the weekend.
Pushing the UEFA Champions League boundaries
Should he feature for Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League showdown with domestic rivals Liverpool, Son would become only the second-ever Asian player to feature in the competition’s final. The first was compatriot Park Ji-sung who appeared in the 2009 and 2011 finals for Manchester United – both of which they lost to Barcelona.
A UEFA Champions League first?
A win for Tottenham would see Son become the first Asian footballer to claim a UEFA Champions League title. While no player from the Continent has achieved the feat before, three exports have won the UEFA Cup – or Europa League – as it is now known: Cha Bum-kun (Eintracht Frankfurt 1980, Bayer Leverkusen 1988), Shinji Ono (Feyenoord 2002) and Kim Dong-jin (Zenit 2008).
When Son scored twice in the first 10 minutes of Tottenham’s 4-3 loss in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, he took his overall competition tally – excluding qualifiers – to 12 to become the tournament’s top Asian scorer. The previous holder was Dynamo Kyiv ace Maksim Shatskikh of Uzbekistan. Son has made 53 appearances for Tottenham this season, scoring 21 times.
After famously scoring Korea Republic’s second goal in their historic 2-0 win over Germany at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, Son’s subsequent displays for his club saw him named London’s Premier League Player of the Year for 2019 and receive Tottenham’s 2018/19 Player of the Season and Goal of the Season awards.
Despite failing to steer Korea Republic beyond the 2019 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals – the Taeguk Warriors lost to eventual winners Qatar – Son has tasted success on the international stage recently thanks to his country’s 2018 Asian Games triumph.
The Koreans beat Japan 2-1 after extra-time to land the Continental title, a win which exempted Son from national service in his homeland.
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