Heung-Min Son feels early injury has undermined his first season at Tottenham
Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son admits he has found it harder to adapt to the Premier League than he expected, and he feels a foot injury has undermined his efforts – but he is pleased to have challenged for the title in his first season in England.
The South Korea international, who arrived for £22million from German outfit Bayer Leverkusen last summer, made an early impression with three goals in his first three games for Spurs.
However, he was then injured in the 4-1 home win over Manchester City at the end of September, leaving him on the sidelines for nearly six weeks.
Son struggled to find consistency after that, only scoring three times in his next 32 games. However, Dele Alli’s suspension has given the 23-year-old a late opportunity to impress and – although he admits he still does not feel fully fit - he has seized the chance, scoring in each of his last two games against Chelsea and Southampton.
“It’s difficult. Two goals in two games is not bad, but I’m still disappointed with the two games because against Chelsea we drew and we played very well, and on Sunday we lost,” said Son. “I’m a little bit happy but also disappointed as I think bigger.
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“It’s not finished - we have a very important last game – but still, I have learned some things in English football. This is the first year for me but still I’ve enjoyed the year with Tottenham. In my first season we played for the title - this was unbelievable for me. Still I have to learn some things.
“I think it’s harder than what I thought. Everyone in the world talks about the English Premier League. It’s not easy but I play with my body and I can feel how important it is to get 100 per cent fit to play. This is an important thing to play in the Premier League.
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“This season I think [I’ve been] a little bit unlucky. I started well, got injured and then getting fit took a long time. I’m still getting [back to] 100 per cent. But I’m very happy because I enjoyed this year in Tottenham.
“We talked and played this season very well and we’re a little bit unlucky not to get the title. In the last game for us it’s important to win to give a good finish for the fans and for the club. We hope for the second position.”
While Spurs are still battling Arsenal for the runner-up spot, they have already secured a place in the Champions League group stage – and Son is one of the players who has experience of the competition after his two years at Leverkusen.
“Every player’s dream is to play in the Champions League, and the World Cup,” said Son. “For me it’s a dream to play in it and the music makes me really happy to play in it.
“It’s not an easy competition and we have to look forward, we have to work very hard. There are many good teams, [some of the best] in the world. We have to be very focused and be very ready for the Champions League next season.”
In the meantime, Son is waiting to hear whether he will be allowed to represent his country at the Olympics in Rio.
South Korea boss Uli Stielike chose not to pick Son for a World Cup qualifier in March in the hope that he would be able to select the midfielder as one of his three over-age picks for this summer’s tournament, which will take place between August 3-20.
That would affect Son’s pre-season preparations with Spurs, who will kick off their new Premier League campaign on the weekend of August 13.
On the other hand, he faces the prospect of two years of mandatory military service in the future – and helping his nation to win a medal in Brazil might mean he is exempted, ensuring his football career is unaffected.
Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng has avoided military service because he was part of the South Korea squad that took the bronze at London 2012 – and, while he was loath to discuss the subject, Son admits he would like to compete in the Olympics.
“Why not? It’s a very nice tournament and competition, and every player wants to go to play there,” he said. “I’ve played in the World Cup and Asian Cup and I haven’t played in the Olympics. We’ll see what happens. We’re still waiting for the decision so I can’t say anything.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs