Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son is set to miss the start of the season after South Korea selected him as one of three overage players for their 20-man squad to play in the Asian Games, which begins on August 14.
According to the Associated Press (h/t MailOnline), Spurs can block his involvement as the youth tournament is not an official FIFA competition, but by doing so they could be denying him one of his last chances to earn an exemption from military service.
Sporting achievement with the national side can lead to exemptions from the mandatory 21-month service Korean men must begin by their 28th birthday, and a gold medal at the Games would also be sufficient.
South Korea's 2002 World Cup squad were granted an exemption for their historic run to the semi-final on home soil, but in Russia they failed to escape their group despite beating Germany 2-0 in their final match.
The Tottenham star scored two of their three goals at the tournament, including this superb effort against Mexico:
Son was prevented from attending the 2014 Asian Games by former side Bayer Leverkusen and so was not part of the Korean side that won that year.
Should Spurs give him leave to participate in the tournament, which runs until September 1, Son could miss their first four fixtures of the season against Newcastle United, Fulham, Manchester United and Watford.
It's possible he won't miss too much club action, though, as it could be the case that he does not join the squad for the start of tournament, per Goal's Steve Han:
Per the AP (h/t MailOnline), South Korean under-23 manager Hak-Bom Kim said on Monday: "We first want to thank all these clubs for releasing their players. However, we haven't reached agreements on their release dates, so the Korea Football Association is looking for ways to confirm the dates."
If Spurs elect for him to stay, the 26-year-old's last chance to earn an exemption—or at least have it reduced to four weeks of basic training—will be at the Asian Cup next year, which runs from January 5 to February 1.
Depending on how Spurs do in the Carabao Cup, that could keep him out of action for even more matches than missing the start of the season to take part in the Games.
Son is an important player for the Lilywhites, having contributed a combined total of 39 goals and 21 assists for them over the past two seasons. But losing him for almost two years would be a much bigger long-term blow, so it seems unlikely they'll prevent him from attending.