Things are a bit slow here on the Korean/Tavern front, so I thought I’d fill the space with the latest of transfer rumors surrounding our beloved Son Heung-Min. Which is that he will spurn an extension at Hamburg and offers from England, to move to Borussia Dortmund.
This rumor gained strength once it was announced that Mario Gotze would leave Dortmund this summer for Bayern Munich. Leaving Dortmund in need of a creative attacker. Gotze and Son are certainly different players, so it wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement, but it still makes sense for Dortmund and Son.
While Hamburg does clearly have inspirations to be a Champions League caliber team, it’s hard to see it happening anytime in the near future. And that could be a major factor for Son. The Champions League (along with money and silverware) tend to be the two decisive factors in where talented young players go. When you look at Son’s options, as listed by the papers, Dortmund would seem to make the most sense. In England he has been connected to Tottenham, Arsenal, United, and Chelsea. In Germany Dortmund and, of course, Hamburg would be his options. United and Chelsea are likely just rubbish rumors, but for the sake of argument let’s entertain them as extremely remote possibilities.
United would represent the opportunity to play at one of the true giants of the world. Money would certainly come, as would the chance for regular Champions League football and trophies. United has yet to fully replace the Ronaldo-sized hole in attack, although Van Persie does a good job, and Son would be a similar type player. It is possible to envision a very similar situation for Son that happened to Ronaldo. Comes in as a very talented youngster. Develops into a great player, and then moves on for big, big money. Yet, despite all the positives surrounding the move, the chances of it happening, are less then 10% (in my completely unscientific, no-evidence basis).
Chelsea would probably represent the worst option. A highly fickle environment that is already quite deep with young attacking midfielders in the form of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Marko Marin, and supposedly the incoming Andre Schurrle. You could make the argument that Son would play as a forward, but it’s no secret that Falcao and Cavani are top targets there. The only thing Chelsea seems to really be offering is money. They will likely get into the Champions League, but their fall from their heights a few years ago must raise a few eyebrows. The last couple seasons, Chelsea has been fairly far away from the silverware race domestically, and the drastic shift of power to Manchester is something players will likely take note of when choosing English teams. Odds of Son going to Chelsea? Less than 1%.
I think after what happened to Park Chu-Young, there will be many Korean players wary of the Gunners. Not that they really should, Park was clearly out of his depth there, but Arsenal’s reputation did take a bit of a hit with the Korean public. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Park was very vociferously warning young Korean players away from Arsenal and to go to Spain (I wonder if he would still tell them to come to Spain now). The Park situation aside, Arsenal is a popular destination for top youngsters since there is definitely the feel that even if you’re young, if you have the talent, you’ll get a shot. On paper, Son would be a nice fit for Arsenal. Him on the left, Walcott on the right, Cazorla in the middle. A very talented and dangerous trio there. But like United, the chances of a Son-to-Arsenal move seem remote. Arsenal’s trophy drought is well-documented, and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. Even the Champions League seems in question at times.
Then there’s the other north London team, Tottenham. Spurs seem to be the most active in pursuing Son, other than Hamburg attempting to get an extension signed. I don’t think that Spurs will really go after Son, like really really, unless it looks very likely that Bale leaves for Spain. Spurs need a true center forward and true wide midfielders, and Son isn’t either of those. So, it’s hard to see how he fits into the XI unless Andres Villas-Boas is planning a major formation shift to a 4-3-3. In terms of team level, Spurs would represent the next step, to a team that while not a championship challenger, is a quality team that will regularly push for a top four spot. But, that being said, Spurs does not really match those three desired options of money, silverware, CL football. He could make more money elsewhere, and have a better chance of silverware and Champions League football.
Which takes us back to Germany. Hamburg can’t offer Son much, except money (they’ve said they will better any offer) and familiarity. Son has been with Hamburg for almost five years now (since he was 16), and while he clearly has bigger plans in mind, he doesn’t seem desperate to leave now. It’s certainly possible that he sticks around for another year or two, and then leaves (perhaps after Brazil 2014). While it’s highly unlikely that Hamburg will win anything soon (especially given the juggernaut that is being built in Munich), Son is at least guaranteed a starting spot and playing time.
And we end with Dortmund. Dortmund is entering what may be a bit of a crossroad period. After two back-to-back titles, Bayern Munich stormed back to win the league this season in emphatic fashion, destroying all who came before them. And while Bayern seems to be going from strength-to-strength, already announcing the signing of Pep Guardiola and Mario Gotze, Dortmund is dealing with the opposite. Boss Jurgen Klopp has been repeatedly linked with jobs elsewhere (although to his credit he has said he’s not interested), and besides Gotze, striker Robert Lewandowski is likely to leave in the near future as well, stating that he will not extend his contract. Defender Matt Hummels is also linked with a move away, possibly to Barcelona, and emerging midfield talent Ilkay Gundogan is also a possible departure. While Dortmund is loathe to let any more players leave, sometimes as we’ve seen in world football, it’s just not possible to keep players who don’t want to be there.
Where does this fit with Son? Well, it has to do with how attractive a Dortmund project is to him. If he believes that many of these players will stay, and help keep Dortmund as a competitive team in the future, Son will be more likely to move there. But, if he views Dortmund as a team that may enter a decline in the coming years, the appeal is lessened. Son could fit in nicely with the Dortmund midfield. Playing either as a second striker behind Lewandowski, or as a wide player with Marco Reus coming inside.
Whichever way you look at it, Son certainly has plenty of options at his feet. Hopefully he makes a smart choice, one that allows him to continue to develop and grow as a player. As I see it, his likely choices are A) stay at Hamburg, B) move to Dortmund, or C) move to Tottenham. I’d rate the possibilities (again not based on anything really) at 50%, 30%, 20% respectively. I tend to think he’ll stay at Hamburg one more year, and then look to move after the World Cup on the hopes that a good tournament showing will lead to a major payday. But if Hamburg falters at the end, and ends up solidly midtable, should a good offer come in, I think he’ll take it. I think he’d lean towards Dortmund as long as they can guarantee that they won’t sell their major players given his experience in Germany and Dortmund’s chances for CL and trophies.
So, where does Son Heung-Min’s future lie? Germany, England, or somewhere else? Which team would you like to see him at? Let us know in the comments.