Son Heung-min Closes in on Football Legend Cha Bum-kun

  • By Lee Tae-dong

    April 10, 2017 10:58

    Son Heung-min scored twice to lead Tottenham Hotspur to a 4-0 victory over Watford at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The goals were the 10th and 11th of the English Premier League season for Son, who has scored four times in his last three matches and is the first Asian player to achieve a double-digit haul in an EPL season.

    Son reminds many fans in Korea of football legend Cha Bum-kun, who scored 98 goals in Germany's Bundesliga in the 1980s, when it was considered the best league in the world. Cha is still regarded as one of the best foreigners ever to have played in the Bundesliga, and is Korea's most venerated football figure. Many fans are beginning to speak of Son as having the potential to end his career with a stature comparable to Cha's.

    If he scores one more time, Son will tie Cha's record for the most goals in a European season. His current form is close to the level at which Cha performed during his best season. In 1985-86, Cha scored 19 goals from 38 matches for Bayer Leverkusen (17 in the Bundesliga and two in Cup tournaments), a rate of one goal every two matches. Son has scored 18 goals from 37 matches this season (11 in the EPL, six in the FA Cup, and one in the Champions League). 

    However, some feel it is too soon to crown Son as Cha's successor, pointing to the considerable gap in career stats that Son will first have to close. Cha joined Darmstadt in 1978 at the age of 25, Son's current age. The following year he transferred to Frankfurt and began his domination of the Bundesliga. He scored 15 goals that season, and would go on to post double-digit hauls every season until 1985-86. By the time he retired in 1989, Cha had scored 98 goals in Bundesliga matches over 13 years. Including Cup tournaments, his overall tally comes to 121.

    Son was just 18 when he made his professional debut with Hamburg in 2010-11. His first double-digit season came in 2012-13, with 12 goals. He then moved to Bayer Leverkusen, where he reached double-digits for three seasons in a row through 2014-15. Last season, his first in the EPL, he dropped below 10 goals, but he is now back on track. In the eight years he has played in Europe, Son has scored 56 goals in regular season play, 42 behind Cha. Including non-league goals, his tally rises to 75, 46 fewer than Cha. But he is still young, and has time to chase down Cha's mark.

    If he remains fit, Son could play as many as eight more matches this season. One more goal would bring him level with Cha. Two would secure him a place in football history. Tottenham is scheduled to play at home against Bournemouth on Saturday.

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