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Son Heung-min has hit new heights this season under Jose Mourinho


Son Heung-min has hit new heights this season under Jose Mourinho

The South Korean’s recent performances are on par with Gareth Bale’s before his move to Real Madrid in 2013.

THERE are many aspects of Son Heung-Min’s game that are uncommon, even among elite footballers. His two-footedness, for example, or his tireless work ethic out of possession, or his almost contradictory combination of ruthless scoring instincts and unselfishness.

What is rarer still about Son, though, is that, at age 28 – by which point, having reached their peak, we tend to feel we know all there is to know about a player and have seen their ceiling – he appears to have made a huge developmental leap.

The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been instrumental in his side’s elevation into the title picture under Jose Mourinho this season, outscored in the Premier League only by two-time Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah.

So impressive has the South Korean’s form been that he is reportedly drawing the interest of Real Madrid, a notion that will worry Spurs fans who have come to so adore Son. And the interest of the Spanish champions makes perfect sense, given Son’s performances this season, with his directness and relentless productivity, echo the displays of Gareth Bale in his final White Hart Lane season before joining Madrid in a world-record £86m deal in 2013.

Son has been a consistent and reliable performer throughout his time with Spurs. After joining the club as a £20m signing from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2015 and overcoming a slow first campaign in which he scored only eight times in all completions, he has returned Premier League goals hauls of 14, 12, 12, 11 and 12.

Already this season, he has scored 12, just two short of his best single-season return for Spurs and equal to anything he produced previously in Germany. And with five assists to his name, too, he is halfway to equalling a career-best from last term.

In the 2012-13 season, Bale scored 21 league goals – still a career-high mark for the Welshman – netting at a rate of a goal every 139.2 minutes. Son is currently scoring at a clip of one every 112.8 minutes. And he has already produced one more assist than Bale mustered in that 2012-13 campaign which saw the former Madrid man crowned PFA Players Player of the Year for a second time. Son’s per-90-minute averages for key passes (2.1) and successful dribbles (1.6) are comparable with Bale’s (2.3 and 1.8, respectively) in his final Spurs season, too.

Throughout his career, Spurs boss Jose Mourinho hasn’t always proven easy to get along with for his players, with several high-profile rifts on his track record – Dele Alli being the latest. But, for his quiet determination and unquestioning commitment, Son has quickly won the heart of his manager.

"That's the humility of a player,’ Mourinho said. ‘That's Sonny. That's the human nature. He's like that. Some other guys they are not like that. For him it's the team.

"For him, for [Harry] Kane, for Lucas [Moura], for many the team is first and of course we depend a lot on the characteristics of some players. Sonny is one of them.”

And it is not just on an individual level that Son is in record-breaking form this season. His partnership with Spurs captain and star striker Harry Kane is not only the best in the country at present but also on course to be the most-productive the Premier League has ever seen.

The pair have combined directly for 13 league goals so far this term, equalling the previous single-season high mark for a scoring-and-assisting duo set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in Blackburn Rovers’ Premier League-winning campaign of 1994-95.

Son and Kane are just four shy of equalling Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard’s record of linking up for 36 goals.

"We're working hard and working on it for a long time," Son said of his on-field relationship with Kane.

"Sometimes it is telepathic, sometimes we talk about it."

“I have to admit that Harry and Sonny are world class players and on the top of what they do they have a very good sense of the team,” added Mourinho.

"They have a very good sense of the balance that they need and they also do incredible tactical work for the team when the team doesn't have the ball. So top players, amazing."

Son’s current contract with Tottenham runs until the summer of 2023, but already the club are trying to tie him down to lucrative new terms. After the Bale sale, Spurs learned the hard way that selling a star and rebuilding with the funds received is more difficult than it seems. They’ll want to fend off Madrid this time and see how many more unexpected improvements Son can surprise us with.

Son Heung-min Premeir League top goalscorer 2020/21 - 7/1

 

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