SEOUL (Reuters) - Son Heung-min broke the single-season scoring record for a South Korean in Europe and helped Tottenham Hotspur finish second in the Premier League this year, but the 24-year-old says he is still growing as a player and is far from the finished article.
Son’s 21 goals for Spurs in all competitions eclipsed the 19 South Korean icon Cha Bum-kun scored for German side Leverkusen in 1985/86 and while he knows he accomplished a lot this season, he was keen to downplay comparisons to the greats of the game.
“Unless I play like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’ll be hard to give myself 100 out of 100,” Yonhap News quoted Son as telling reporters at Incheon International Airport.
“I know I accomplished a lot this season, but I also went through some tough times. And those moments helped me grow as a player. I’d give myself maybe 70 points.”
Son, who joined Spurs from Leverkusen in 2015 for a reported 30 million euros ($33.74 million), was reluctant to even compare himself with trailblazer Cha.
“I can’t even compare to the player that he was back in the days, when he battled in Europe in much more difficult circumstances,” he said.
South Korea will hope Son carries his goal-scoring form at club level into next month’s World Cup qualifier against Qatar.
Coach Uli Stielike on Monday included the Spurs forward in his 24-man squad for the 2018 qualifier in Doha but said his performances for South Korea had not been as effective due partly to limited training time with his Korean team mates.
Son felt that that would not be an issue this time around and said while he was keen to add to his 17 international goals, getting the three points was crucial.
“It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we win the match,” he added.
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Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Ian Ransom