Son Heung-Min at 30: The stats that show Spurs star is getting better with age

He’s usually all smiles anyway, but we imagine Son Heung-Min is beaming from ear to ear Friday as the Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea star celebrates a noteworthy birthday.

Son turned 30 on July 8, and the big Three-Oh arrives as a fitting cap to the Premier League season just gone — a campaign that ranks up there among the very best of his career.

While there was no silverware to speak of, he once again performed excellently throughout and was named Spurs’ Player of the Year for 2021-22, as well as finishing as joint-winner of the Premier League Golden Boot.

Turning 30 used to be an ominous moment for the professional footballers of yesteryear who were suddenly confronted by the fact that they may only have a couple more years left at the top.

Thanks to advances in fitness, lifestyle, nutrition and conditioning, players in general are able to play on well into their fourth decade, with many prominent stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi proving that it is possible to maintain a high standard well into the mid- and late-30s.

On the evidence of the last few seasons, Son certainly looks to have plenty of mojo left in reserve and there’s no reason not to think that 2022-23 might be his most productive season yet.

He might be “over the hill” (or at least perched atop it!), but there are plenty of grounds to believe that the Korean talisman will continue going from strength to strength as he enters his eighth season at Spurs.

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Son’s numbers just keep getting better

After scoring just four goals in 28 league games during his debut campaign at Spurs (2015-16), Son quickly boosted his output: averaging 12 Premier League goals a season for the next four years.

However, during the last two seasons, Son has produced his highest goal tallies. He notched 17 goals in 37 games in 2020-21, only to top that in 2021-22 by notching 23 goals in 35 games, aided in part by the symbiotic strike partnership he has forged with the equally prolific Harry Kane.

The twosome have created and scored more goals between themselves than any other two players in Premier League history. Kane and Son officially became the league’s most prolific attacking partnership ever in February 2022 when the latter latched on to an assist from the former to score in a 4-0 win against Leeds United — their 37th combined goal/assist link-up. This eclipsed the former record of 36 shared between Chelsea pair Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

Golden Boot

Nobody scored more goals in the Premier League last season than Son, with Liverpool hotshot Mohamed Salah the only other player to match the Spurs striker’s numbers as the pair ended up sharing the 2021-22 Golden Boot award. Son and Salah may have split the Golden Boot but Son scored all 23 of his goals from open play (Salah’s total includes five penalties).

It might have been different had Son managed to find the net just one more time against Norwich on the final day of the season, but despite scoring a brace in an emphatic 5-0 win at Carrow Road it just wasn’t to be for the Korean star.

He fell one goal shy of the hat trick that would have seen him pip Salah outright despite the best efforts of his teammates who, as later revealed by midfielder Dejan Kulusevski, did all they could against the Canaries to lay chances on a plate for their Golden Boot-chasing striker. What might have been!

Back in the Champions League

After missing out for the past two years, Tottenham are back in the Champions League in 2022-23 which will afford Son the chance to shine on the biggest stage once again.

The club have endured a couple of fallow years since peaking with a run to the 2018-19 Champions League final under former manager Mauricio Pochettino, but things are on the up again under Antonio Conte, who has instilled fresh impetus among a jaded squad.

After taking over from the deposed Nuno Espirito Santo in November, Conte’s side soon began to regain consistency and eventually held firm to secure a top-four finish in 2021-22, the club’s highest league position since the departure of Pochettino. Having been forced to make do with a dreary foray into the UEFA Europa Conference League last year, Spurs are Champions League material once again thanks in no small part to their charismatically pragmatic Italian coach.

Son has 14 goals in 30 games for Spurs in the Champions League tucked under his belt to date and something tells us he’ll be looking to add to that tally in the months to come.

World Cup on the horizon

South Korea are due to head into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this winter while boasting their highest FIFA world ranking in years. The Taegeuk Warriors are ranked as the 28th best men’s national side at present by FIFA; up from 39th place in May of 2021 and 46th in early 2018. At least in terms of coefficient points, Son and his fellow countrymen are as good a proposition as their national team has had in years.

Son is preparing for his third World Cup campaign, having scored once at the 2014 tournament in Brazil and twice four years later in Russia. As captain of his national team, he is one of several big names set to go head to head in Group H at Qatar 2022 along with the aforementioned Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Jota (Portugal), Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez (Uruguay) and the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan (Ghana).

It’s going to be tough for South Korea to battle their way through to the World Cup knockout phase for the first time since 2010) but if Son continues his upward trajectory in the world’s biggest tournament then they will have a chance.

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