Why Son Heung-Min Can Rise to Become Asia's Closest Thing to Lionel Messi
The headline does, admittedly, appear to be a little exaggerated. However, there can be no doubting that Hamburg forward Son Heung-Min could go on to become the face of Asian football in the years to come and that is what is up for discussion—Asia's equivalent figure to Lionel Messi, if you like.
Now firmly established in Hamburg, Son joined the Bundesliga side as a 16-year-old in 2008. He has since made rapid progress since making his debut for the club two years later.
Generally positioned on the right of the Hamburg attacking unit, the now 20-year-old Son has gone on to become acknowledged as one of the brightest stars the German league has to offer.
With nine goals in 23 appearances this campaign, the Korean is currently just one goal off his club's top-scorer for the campaign, despite not being a natural centre-forward.
So, what makes Son such an exciting and incisive player?
Quick and agile, the Korean is perfect for Hamburg to utilise on the counter attack. Given space to run into, Son's close control and speed make him a very difficult threat to negate if short of numbers.
In front of goal, too, he has proven exceptionally clinical. When given a clear-cut chance to score, it is rare to see the young forward come up short, and his goalscoring this season is testament to that fact.
While his delivery into the penalty area may not be as good as he would hope, he is adept at cutting infield and adding to the short passing, dynamic football that Hamburg like to play. With Milan Badelj and Rafael van der Vaart also in the side, he has plentiful support in this respect.
Son has earned himself a handsome reputation in the Bundesliga. The league is currently awash with Japanese talent, but it may well be that it is the Korean who eclipses all of his East Asian rivals.
With plentiful technical ability, as shown by his ability to beat opponents, and commendable work rate, there is little reason to suggest that he could not reach the upper echelons of the European game.
Hamburg is, of course, a good starting point, but there are already suggestions that some of the Champions League elite are watching his progress. English clubs in particular are heavily linked, along with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen (via Express).
Son, though, is in no particular hurry to leave at present.
The Express article quotes the player's agent, Thies Bliemeister, as telling Die Welt: "We are under no pressure from HSV. Everything has to fit. We have clear ideas, and first of all they centre on Son's development. If his development is right, he will earn enough anyway."
Responding to talk of interest from both Manchester United and Chelsea, Son also spoke himself last week of renewing his deal with Hamburg. The rising star of Asian football cited his comfort at the club as a possible deciding factor (via Soccerway).
Actions, though, speak louder than words, and with his current contract expiring in the summer of 2014, Son's resolve to remain at Hamburg could be greatly tested in the coming months. Should his side fail to move into at least the Europa League places, it could surely spell the end of his time at the club.
He may not be Messi, but he could easily turn out to be Asia's equivalent. Beyond Son, the other outstanding contender for the crown at present would be Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa—but every Messi needs his Cristiano Ronaldo.
His next move could have a major influence on how high he can peak in football. Son needs to find an ambitious side where he will be afforded the opportunity of plentiful minutes. If he can satisfy those conditions, he could surely become one of the best players that Asia has ever produced.
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