The 2021-2022 English Premier League (EPL) top scorer, Son Heung-min (31, Tottenham Hotspur), had an eventful 2022-2023 season. However, on his way home, he didn’t show any signs of the hardships he endured and remembered the fans who came to see him with a smile on his face.
Son Heung-min returned home on the afternoon of the 30th through Incheon International Airport. Even in the midst of the crowds, Son Heung-min waved both hands and responded to the fans who cheered him on. It was said that the conversation continued until just before he left Incheon Airport in his car.
It was a season of high expectations. Heung-min became the first Asian to lead the EPL in scoring last season, tying Mohamed Salah for the league lead with 23 goals and nine assists. With a career-high season under his belt, Son was expected to perform well this season and at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last November.
The first half of the season didn’t go as well as expected. He was up and down throughout the first half of the season and even suffered an orbital fracture against Marseille (France) in the UEFA Champions League group stage before the World Cup.
He battled back to earn a spot in the World Cup, assisting on Hwang Hee-chan’s (Wolverhampton) winning goal in the final group game against Portugal to lead South Korea to a dramatic round of 16. However, Joy’s time as captain of the national team was not without its ups and downs, including friction between the Korea Football Association and some trainers and the reversal of teammate Kim Min-jae’s (SSC Napoli) international retirement.
To make matters worse, upon his return to Tottenham, he struggled to coexist with left-back Ivan Perisic. The team as a whole suffered a terrible run of form that culminated in the sacking of head coach Antonio Conte in March and the departure of assistant coach Christian Stellini, who replaced him.
But the South Korean captain overcame all the odds. On April 8, Son reached the 100-goal milestone in the EPL with his signature right-footed 안전놀이터 curler against Brighton & Hove Albion at home. He became the 34th player in EPL history and the first Asian to reach the milestone. On May 1 against Liverpool, he recorded his 10th league goal with a goal and an assist, giving him 104 career goals and seven consecutive seasons of double-digit league scoring.
He finished the 2022-2023 season with 14 goals and six assists in all competitions, including an assist on Harry Kane’s goal in the season finale against Leeds United on May 29. It was their 47th career goal together. The team faltered under Ryan Mason, finishing eighth in the league and missing out on European club competitions next season.
With all his club commitments wrapped up, the South Korean will take a break before returning to action in June for the domestic A-match. The South Korean national soccer team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, will be called up on June 12 and will play exhibition matches against Peru (Busan) on June 16 and El Salvador (Daejeon) on June 20.