Son Heung-Min 21 Striker Bayer Leverkusen South Korea
2013 has been…
Outside Munich and Dortmund, Son Heung-Min might just be the jewel of German football at present. Bayer Leverkusen kept their cool throughout the transfer of Andre Schürrle to Chelsea because they knew what they had coming in from Hamburger SV to replace him. Sporting director Rudi Völler was confident in June, reporting that, “Son is exactly the type of player we were looking for in our young team. He is fast, agile, technically strong and a great finisher.”
The former West Germany star’s ebullience was backed up by a Bundesliga.com poll of website users, with Son being voted as the likely top goalscorer this season. Sure enough, the South Korean international has started to find his feet in Leverkusen after a barren start and he, Stefan Kiessling and Sidney Sam have become a formidable front three. Sam’s recent injury could be a real blow.
The positive for Leverkusen and Sami Hyypiä, now in sole charge as head coach at the BayArena, is that Son might well be this list’s most in-form player as our assessment is wrapped up for another year.
Generally operating to Kiessling’s left but with a knack for finding good central positions and goalscoring opportunities, Son has found his groove at his new club. He looked the part at Hamburg, undoubtedly. Former HSV coach Thorsten Fink arguably failed to get the best out of him because he was deployed in a deeper role on occasion, notably on the right of a midfield diamond where he was expected to penetrate from a less advanced to vary his threat.
Son moved for a significant pile of Euros in the summer, despite Hamburg sporting director Frank Arsesen’s hands-off warning to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, and talk of HSV doing deals with South Korean sponsors. When Son reportedly turned down a contract to make him the second highest paid Hamburg player (after Rafael van der Vaart), a move seemed inevitable.
Hyypiä is the man lucky enough to have a superb prospect on his hands. The Korean has scored seven goals in his 12 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer and is, without wishing to put too fine a point on it, absolutely flying.
He was the headline maker in Leverkusen’s 5-3 win against his old club in November, capping a brilliant performance with a stunning hat-trick, comprising a great run and left-footed strike across the goalkeeper, a wonderful show of pace and composure, and a sensational first touch and instinctive finish.
That game was Son laid bare for the world. His first touch with both feet is tremendous, his finishing (with both feet, naturally) neater than a military haircut and his pace deceptive but devastating. And, just in case the masses needed a reminder that he’s young and by no means a perfect player, he gave the ball away unnecessarily for Hamburg’s third goal.
His technique can be a little scruffy at times, and his shooting from distance isn’t always much more than scuffed. His dribbling, while he is very much game when it comes to taking the chance to try it out, isn’t necessarily his biggest strength.
Nevertheless, Son is earning his spurs as Leverkusen’s second most expensive signing ever. He’s worth every penny and more, and to be perfectly honest we’re a little bit in love. Son Heung-Min is a very special player indeed.
When South Korea played against Brazil in October, Son started the game on the bench. The Chuncheon-born FC Seoul and Hamburg youth graduate was introduced in the 65th minute to an enormous welcome. The Taegeuk Warriors fans know exactly what is looming on the horizon for their new brightest star: the World Cup.
Son’s vital stoppage time winner against Qatar in March helped guide the Koreans to the finals in Brazil, where they will play Belgium, Algeria and Russia with every chance of progressing. Son has scored five international goals in 22 appearances, four of them in 2013 and three of them this season. It’s been some purple patch.
Son will be the man tasked with grasping the nettle in Brazil and coming of age just in time to overcome a tricky but not insurmountable trio of opponents in June. First, though, is the small matter of the Bundesliga. Leverkusen are widely accepted as one of the favourites to secure third spot – and a Champions League place, of course – behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
As the campaign has unfolded, it’s become even more intriguing for Leverkusen, who are, as the end of the winter championship approaches, very much in the fight for second with BVB. Kiessling is getting most of the international media recognition, his absence from a recent Germany squad causing splutters of discontent, but Son is the people’s choice. Thanks to his goal against Dortmund in the 1-0 win in December, Leverkusen might just be in the driving seat.
"He had big shoes to fill when he joined Leverkusen as Andre Schürrle's replacement, and although he hasn't hit the ground running yet there are few players quicker on the ball and more dangerous on the counter attack than the South Korean." - Cristian Nyari, bundesligafanatic.com
"Son has scored six goals in his last four Bundesliga appearances; more than any other player in the league since November 1." - Opta
C+ On current form 2014 could be a blinder