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Feature - Heung-Min Son has arrived as a Spurs superstar... so where are the wider plaudits?

Feature - Son has arrived as a Spurs superstar... so where are the wider plaudits?

14/02/2019 at 08:45Updated 14/02/2019 at 09:02

Heung-Min Son's remarkable season continued against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night. Eurosport's Tom Bennett was at Wembley to witness the display first hand and asks why the South Korean star doesn't get the level of attention his performances deserve...

With a smile on his face and a swagger in his step, Heung-Min Son cemented his status as a top-class player at Wembley on Wednesday night.

Whether that status even needed cementing is a point we'll get to later, but anyone who doubted Son's credentials before the Champions League first leg against Borussia Dortmund will have had few doubts after it.

Jan Vertonghen (l.) and Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur

Jan Vertonghen (l.) and Heung-Min Son of Tottenham HotspurGetty Images

The South Korean was the stand-out performer on a terrific night for Tottenham, scoring the opening goal with a faultless finish and terrorising the Dortmund defence until his withdrawal on 88 minutes.

Playing through the middle as a genuine centre-forward, Son showed strength against the centre-backs and the sort of link-up play to suggest he is a genuine alternative to Harry Kane as the fulcrum of Tottenham's attack.

The comparison may be excessive, but there were hints of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United in Son's display. A mercurial wide man, physically transformed into a top centre-forward, Son had the strut of a player finally close to unlocking his full potential.

"Son was fantastic again," a beaming Pochettino told the assembled media in his press conference. "He provides the team a lot of very good things, his smile and the positive energy he brings to the team are fantastic."

But behind the smile there is a steel to Son. He looks a long way from the occasionally timid player who arrived at Spurs. On Wednesday night his force of character and will to win shone out of him. This is a player ready to lead Tottenham to titles.

"In every game that Son has scored this season, Tottenham have won," said one of the South Korean press pack who attend every Son match in England. And while that stat drew a smile and a joke from Pochettino ("next time he scores I'll go to the dressing room and take a shower"), it underlines how Son is now a key match winner for Spurs.

Never mind Dele Alli and Harry Kane, when Son is about Spurs still have a shining star.

So where is the wider acclaim?

Spurs fans don't need telling about Son's quality; the raucous reception he received upon being substituted showed that. And he is beginning to be truly appreciated among other Premier League fans. But even so, Son is rarely mentioned in conversations about individual accolades or in rumours of massive transfer interest.

Consider Eden Hazard. It is widely accepted that when Hazard leaves Chelsea it will be to one of the world's biggest clubs for an enormous fee. But then compare Hazard's stats to Son and you begin to wonder why the two aren't talked about in similar terms.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard appears dejected after the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard appears dejected after the 6-0 defeat to Manchester CityPA Sport

And there were more examples on show at Wembley. Christian Pulisic has been bought for in excess of £50m amid great hype, but looked a fraction of the player Son is on the night and has shown far less in his career to suggest he is worth such a lay-out. And on the other side of the Dortmund attack there was Jadon Sancho, who looks a terrific prospect and would attract enormous sums were he to leave Dortmund, more even perhaps than would be offered for Son.

But why?

Perhaps it is the clean-cut attitude that puts some off. Perhaps it is the reputation earned earlier in his career that he goes missing in big games. Or perhaps it is something slightly more sinister; a deep-rooted mentality within football that Asian players are support stars at best rather than the true Galacticos.

Thankfully, on a special night at Wembley, Son showed that he is on the way to stamping out that undeserved stigma once and for all.