Football Features

Heung-min Son: Spurs’ marooned mechanical genius could define the Champions League season

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:48, 30 April 2019

The Champions League semi-finals are upon us. We’re in the Endgame now.

Heung-min Son’s story starts, not unlike Iron Man’s, with a bit of arrogance. Where Tony Stark was a prodigy and career narcissist, Son was a footballing prodigy who thought he was too good for FC Seoul’s Under-18s team and dropped out aged 16 to join Hamburger SV.

This move didn’t take, and he had to return to Korea the next year and then, humbled, formally join HSV’s academy through the correct channels.

Origin

Like Tony Stark was humbled in that cave in Afghanistan, Son found Europe rough going at first. Even when he finally got promoted to the first team, injury delayed his debut.

But Son’s genius could only be contained for so long. And just as Iron Man burst out of that cave in the ‘Mark 1’ suit, Son exploded on the Bundesliga – first through HSV and then for Bayer Leverkusen.

Son’s time in the red and black wasn’t long, but it was enough to convince Spurs to sign him for a world-record fee for an Asian player. Son had to struggle with new surroundings in the Premier League but, eventually, that world too was conquered and he’s now one of the best and flashiest players in the gleaming kit of Spurs.

A True Hero

Son puts it all on the line. Whether that’s through the dynamic playing style that sees him harry and press opponents before making tiring sprints in behind defences to ensure he’s always available as an option for a pass, or via his steadfast refusal to shun his commitment to the South Korea national team.

Just as Iron Man earned his hero status with a suit that he built off the back of his own genius (well, and a first-rate education), Son used his own brilliance to finally earn his military exemption – ending the risk of being force to spend an extended spell away from the elite game.

Son’s goal fired South Korea to the knockout rounds of the 2018 Asian Games and he set up both of Korea’s goals in the final, sealing their win – and his freedom.

Then, since he had his exemption in the bag, he could have left those taxing mid-season tournaments behind, but he went to the 2019 Asian Cup anyway out of a sense of duty.

Iron Man retired from avenging after dispatching Aldrich Killian, but when Hydra needed stopping he donned the suit quick as a flash to step up again and be a hero.

Despite leaving in the middle of the season just when he was in white-hot form, Son returned to Spurs as though he’d never been away and was instantly there to save his club.

Endgame

So what is Son’s endgame this season? It’s got to be that Champions League triumph and then, as a security blanket, finishing in the top four. The latter concern has largely taken care of itself thanks to the hapless tomfoolery of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. But the former? The former is the crown jewel for Spurs.

Tottenham are the only Champions League semi-finalist to have never won the competition before. Ajax have won it four times whilst Liverpool and Barcelona have five trophies each. Spurs, though? They’ve never even made the final and this is just their second semi. They are in well over their head, just like Iron Man when he hitched a ride on Ebony Maw’s ship and headed to space in Infinity War.

But just as Tony Stark didn’t give up, don’t expect Son to either. After all it was the Korean who netted the decisive strikes in the quarter-final win over Manchester City. A huge goal in the first leg and then a colossal brace at the Etihad.

With Ajax waiting in the semis, we can be sure that Son – who will miss the first leg due to suspension – will once again lay it all on the line to try and guide his team to glory, just as Iron Man will stop at nothing to topple Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.

The mechanical genius of Tony Stark and the goalscoring genius of Son… would you bet against either man accomplishing their goals? We wouldn’t.