The smile. It’s always the smile. Start a conversation about Heung-Min Son and a reference to his sunny countenance will crop up at some point. It’s as inevitable as… well, the sun coming up in the morning. And with good reason – just take it from the man himself.
“When I was a child, I loved this ball,” he says. “I loved playing with this ball. Why should I not smile? Of course, I don’t want to lose, but I enjoy playing football. I love to see the stadium. I love to see the opponent. I love to see everything. I enjoy every single second, every single game, every single person coming to the stadium and watching on TV. This is my dream. Why should I not smile?”
This is a smile that has even adorned ice-cream cones back in his native South Korea. Son repeats himself as if to underline the point: “Why should I not smile? Why should I argue about something? It’s nothing, it’s nothing. I just want to smile with this ball and enjoy this moment.”
As 2019 gives way to 2020, the newly crowned AFC Asian International Player of the Year can look back on 12 months containing many moments to enjoy. On his return to north London from the year-opening Asian Cup he struck for Spurs in four consecutive games – including their opener against Dortmund in the Champions League round of 16 – leading the line impressively while Harry Kane was injured. In April he hit the first Premier League goal at Tottenham’s new stadium, followed by three of their four across two legs of a Champions League quarter-final win against Manchester City.