20 year old South Korean international Son Heung-Min today signed a 5 year deal with Bayer Leverkusen. He had his start to professional football with Hamburg, rising up through their academy to become their youngest player to score for them 2 years ago. He had a break through season for Hamburg, scoring 12 goals – including (not one but two) absolutely stellar braces against Borussia Dortmund. Hamburg had been hoping to hold on to Son, but the club has been mired with mounting debt problems.
He’s in South Korea getting geared up for -what we can hope- is the last World Cup qualifer next Tuesday evening against Iran in Ulsan. Rumors had been swirling around the possibility of several clubs around Europe eying Son and his talents, including Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund. In the last several days leading up to today’s announcement, the rumors of a Leverkusen link started to become more substantiated – so much so that statements coming out indicated this transfer was a done deal. Son now becomes one of two Koreans who will play for Champions League sides next season (Park Joo-Ho for FC Basel qualified after winning the Super Swiss title). Son disclosed why he went with Bayer. “I wanted to stay in the Bundesliga and Leverkusen and Dortmund wanted me,” he told reporters. “Both teams play in the Champions League but I thought Dortmund would use rotation more than Leverkusen. That’s why I chose Leverkusen over Dortmund. It’s really important to play regularly in my age. The deal was disclosed to be €10 million [£8.5m].
This transfer is symbolically meaningful, as Bayer was the one of two clubs that Cha Bum-Kun played for. For the uninitiated, he is one of the greatest Koreans football players –and arguably the greatest Korean footballer to have graced the pitch, this according to many in Germany who still speak about “Cha-Boom” with reverence and awe. He played for both Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt between 1976-1986 -and would have been able to play in Germany earlier in his career had it not been for his mandatory service in the ROK army. A recent Tavern opinion poll corroborates with the level of importance Cha has within supporters of the Taeguk Warriors, his performance with the South Korean national team instrumental in elevating South Korean football in dominating Asia, as well as qualification for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
More on this transfer later… and we’re back. Work / 2 kids interruption over. Old news, but in case you’ve just tuned in -André Schürrle was part of how this deal transpired. The left wing & part time No 10 has agreed on principal to transfer to Chelsea – freeing up Bayer to sign up Son as a direct replacement.
According to Bild, “Playing in the Champions League is a very interesting prospect for me. And a lot of players have already made the next step up in their development at Leverkusen, with Schurrle as a good example…I think it is quite important for me to keep on developing, also with an eye on the 2014 World Cup.”
The dynamism of Son makes it even more exciting when you realize he is only 20 years old. Here’s a bit of what Son should provide for his new side: