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Son Heung-Min: The Asian King Without A Crown

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There are very few who would contest that Tottenham’s Son Heung-min is the greatest Asian footballer of all time.

The South Korean attacker’s claim to the title of greatest Asian footballer rests on his sustained excellence at the top level. While legends like Park Ji-Sung, Keisuke Honda, and Shunsuke Nakamura enjoyed European success, Son’s longevity in the Premier League, with a Golden Boot win and a Puskas Award, surpasses them. 

He’s also the first Asian to reach 100 Premier League goals, and his consistency with Tottenham, captaining both club and country, puts him above exciting talents like Minamino. Son’s all-around game, with blistering pace, clinical finishing, and impressive work ethic, makes him a truly world-class player and Asia’s greatest footballing export.

son heung-min

However, football is not a forgiving sport. Despite the Tottenham captain’s prowess, he will be unable to cement his legacy if he does. He has numerous individual awards but this just won’t cut it.

Son Heung-min will be 32 in July and does not show any sign of wanting to depart from Tottenham, a club that has not won any trophy since 2008 when they defeated rivals Chelsea 2-1 in the League Cup final.  

Spurs had some very close calls in terms of winning trophies while Mauricio Pochettino was manager but nothing came to fruition. Right now, you would be a very brave person to bet on the North London club winning a trophy anytime soon.

Taking his age into consideration and the running streak of his club, it begs to wonder why the South Korean is showing no enthusiasm toward leaving Tottenham. He will not have a lack of suitors should he decide to take his services elsewhere in order to secure silverware.

Winning trophies and nothing else is what would cement his status in the history books.

His countryman Ji-sung Park was by no means an exceptional player at Manchester United. Despite this, the midfielder is fondly remembered because he won 7 trophies while at Old Trafford some of which include 4 Premier League titles and 1 Champions League trophy. Japanese striker Shunsuke Nakamura is also still fondly remembered because he won 3 Scottish Premier League titles with Celtic plus, the Asian Cup in 2000 and 2004 with his country Japan.

ji sung park
nakamura

Despite his individual awards, will history remember Son Heung-min fondly should he fail to win a trophy during his professional career? Evidence indicates that it most likely will not.

In the 2018/19 season, Liverpool played by far their best football during Jurgen Klopp’s reign. However, the Reds came very close to not winning a trophy that year despite the surreal effort the team put in. In the Premier League, Liverpool finished that season with 97 points but lost out to Manchester City who finished with 99 points.

They won the Champions League primarily because of a miraculous 4-0 comeback over Lionel Messi’s Barcelona at Anfield. Some are of the opinion that the football deities had no choice but to smile down at Liverpool on that day because it would be a huge disservice if they didn’t win a trophy that season taking into consideration their incredible run of form.

Arsenal are currently facing a similar dilemma. For the past 2 seasons, Mikel Arteta’s side have played their best football in many years but are yet to win a trophy. During this time, they have narrowly lost out on the Premier League title to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City back-to-back.

In this season that just rounded up, Manchester United had their worst finish in the current Premier League era. Still, some believe that they had a more successful season than Arsenal because they won the FA Cup and Arsenal finished trophyless. 

This indeed was a real gut punch to both Arsenal players and supporters.

In order to consider the best course of action for his future, maybe Son Heung-min should look very closely at past Tottenham players who have been in a very similar situation to the one he is in now.

Luka Modric

In August 2012, Luka Modric fought tooth and nail with the Tottenham board to secure a move to Spanish giants, Real Madrid. This decision paid off exponentially for the midfielder. The Croatian did not win any trophy during the seasons he spent at White Hart Lane but has gone on to win an astonishing 22 trophies at the Bernabeu.

modric

In 2018, Modric also won the Ballon d’Or award. Being affiliated with Real Madrid played a huge role in the midfielder winning this award and it is out of the question whether he stood a chance at winning it if he was still with Tottenham.

Gareth Bale

Before his world-record move to Real Madrid in 2013, Gareth Bale was one of the hottest young prospects in football. Just like that of Luka Modric, the Welshman had to put his foot down with the Tottenham board to secure a move to Real Madrid and play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Just like Luka Modric, his decision paid off generously. 

bale

The winger did not come close to winning any trophy during his time at White Hart Lane but with Los Blancos, he won 22 trophies. Gareth Bale was also part of the BBC (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano Ronaldo) attack, one of the best-attacking trio’s football has ever seen.

Harry Kane

Son Heung-min did not have the courtesy of playing with either Luka Modric or Gareth Bale (he later played with the Welshman during his second spell with the club) during their early days at Tottenham. But he played alongside English striker Harry Kane for many years.

At the end of the 2022/23 season, Harry Kane made the very controversial decision to leave Tottenham to join German giants, Bayern Munich. Once he joined, it was expected that trophies would start flowing in for the striker.

harry kane bayern

However, in a very weird twist of fate, Bayern Munich did not win any trophy in Harry Kane’s first season with the club. To put into proper context how weird this is, the Bavarians have been Bundesliga champions for 11 seasons in a row and when Harry Kane joined them, they lost the title to Xabi Alonso’s Bayern Leverkusen.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Nevertheless, should the striker choose to remain at the Allianz Arena, the trophies will eventually start coming in sooner or later taking into consideration Bayern Munich is a force to be reckoned with in Germany and across Europe as well.

Next Course Of Action For Son Heung-Min

Son Heung-Min stands at a crossroads. His individual brilliance is undeniable, a beacon of Asian football on the world stage. Yet, the weight of expectation, the yearning for collective glory, hangs heavy.  

Will he rewrite the narrative, leading Tottenham to a long-awaited trophy and solidify his legacy? Or will he, like Modric and Bale before him, seek new pastures, chasing silverware and potentially sacrificing his legend status at Spurs? 

Only time will tell if Son can defy the odds and become the player who conquers both the trophy cabinet and the hearts of Korean football fans forever.

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