Korean star doesn’t do things by the norm
By Colin StoneFollow @JfGpodcast
The 90 minutes had been and gone, and still Hamburg were 3-2 up. Borussia Dortmund had thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at Rene Adler’s goal, but the German keeper refused to be beaten. Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp urged his team forward for one final attack.
But time was up.
Referee Gunter Perl blew the full-time whistle, prompting huge celebrations from Hamburg supporters and players alike.
However, there was no-one on the pitch with a broader smile than Son Heung-Min, the South Korean striker who had just written his name into Die Rothosen folklore. The 20-year-old wonderkid had just bagged two fantastic goals against the reigning Bundesliga champions.
His strikes had also given Thorsten Fink’s men their first points of the new season.
Better still, his finishes had condemned Borussia Dortmund to their first loss in 369 days – a record stretching back 31 league games.
But even better yet, Son’s goals had kept Hamburg’s existing unbeaten league record intact, a 36-game unbeaten streak from the 1982-83 season.
A quiet afternoon for the youngster, then.
The precocious Son has never really done things the normal way, as reflected in his decision to drop out of school at the age of 16 to join Hamburg’s youth academy.
Although it would be two years before the Gangwon-born forward would make a league start for Hamburg’s senior squad, it wouldn’t take him long to get his name on the scoresheet.
On October 30th 2010, the 18-year-old would score a 24th minute goal against Koln, becoming the youngest HSV player to have scored in the Bundesliga and shattering the previous record held for 39 years by Manfred Kaltz.
He also became the first ever South Korean player to start a game for the Northern club.
During the following summer’s pre-season, Son was affectionately nicknamed “Korean Muller” by fans after scoring an impressive 18 goals in just 9 friendly games.
An ankle injury soon robbed Hamburg of their talented attacker, but the fans had discovered a new star to pin their hopes on – and rightly so. As seen with his two goals on Saturday, the 20-year-old’s incredible ability belies his years.
His first, a great header in which he outsmarted Dortmund’s Mats Hummels to power home, showed all the characteristics of a predatory striker, while his second, an outstanding 18-yard finish after a terrific solo run, reflected the audacious manner in which Son has led his life so far.
Having said that, Son’s goal-scoring record hasn’t been anything to write home about thus far, although the Korean is still very young and often utilised on the wing.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer admitted in an interview last year that Son Heung-Min has what it takes to be the next Cha Bum-Kun, despite the fact that the strike ratio of the man called “Cha Boom” is a goal nearly every three games.
The HSV starlet currently stands some way off that target.
Hamburg boss Thorsten Fink’s faith in the youngster’s striking ability may have been handsomely repaid this weekend, but it also seems that Son seems has no real preference over his position in the team.
“I don’t care where I play. The main thing is I’m game. I can play right, left, in the storm or behind it. What the coach says, I’ll do.
“I don’t have a favourite position. I’ll be anywhere and always on the throttle.”
Prior to his move from Hamburg to Malaga last year, now-retired Dutch legend Ruud Van Nistelrooy described the young Korean as “something special” and “the future” of the team.
High praise for such a young and untested player, some said, but others would now say that Ruud’s comments have been completely justified.