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Back in the Champions League with his first Golden Boot taking pride of place on his mantle piece, Son Heung-min couldn’t be happier.
But as the South Korean approaches his seventh close season at Tottenham, matters could easily have been different.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s disastrous spell in charge left players questioning the direction Spurs were headed.
Tottenham sealed their Champions League return with a dominant win against Norwich
Of course, Nuno was sacked, Antonio Conte was appointed and the rest his history.
You wonder, however, quite how Son would have approached the summer if Conte hadn’t ridden to the rescue.
What history tells us about Son is that he’s not one to agitate, although in the summer of 2016 – following his first season at the club – the forward was said to be considering his future after a stop-start campaign.
Son’s goals against Norwich ensured he won his first Golden Boot by tying Mo Salah at the top
The season could have been so much different if Tottenham hadn’t of hired Antonio Conte
Generally, though, Son’s stay has passed without so much as a hint – at least publicly – that he could leave.
For instance, there was genuine concern at Tottenham between 2017 and 2018 that they could lose Son to Manchester City.
His goals, all 47 of them since arriving in 2015, helped propel Spurs to three successive Champions League qualifications. Pep Guardiola liked what he saw.
But, as he so often does, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy pulled down the shutters.
In the summer of 2018, Son signed a new five-year contract – crisis averted without so much as a back page headline.
Yet it makes you wonder: what if Son had agitated?
Indeed, it’s puzzling to think that Son’s future has never really been the source of speculation akin to that that entrenched Harry Kane last summer.
Tottenham were in disarray at the start of the season under ex-manager Nuno Espirito Santo
It’s certainly not because clubs haven’t wanted him – he’d walk into most teams in Europe.
‘There’s been interest in Son over the years but no club has really been brave enough to have a proper go because of Levy,’ said one well-placed source.
Son’s always had sufficiently long enough on his contract for Levy to have the upper hand – Kane found to his detriment last summer what happens when the Tottenham chairman doesn’t want you to leave.
However, it is acknowledged that Spurs’ success in nullifying interest in Son has been aided by the player’s humble nature.
Son is rare in a sense that he is a world class footballer without an ego.
You’ll be hard pushed to find anyone – certainly at Spurs – who has a bad word to say about Son.
If he was more self-centred, then there’s many who believe Son wouldn’t be at Tottenham today.
Arguably, Son is a victim of his own modesty. Equally, Tottenham will argue his £200,000-per-week wage hardly makes him a sufferer.
Son hasn’t had the same speculation over his future as team-mate Harry Kane has had
It’s important not to mistake Son’s unassuming persona as a lack of ambition.
He wants Champions League football, he wants to be competing for major trophies.
That’s why he so enjoys working under Conte; he believes Spurs are heading in the right direction under the Italian.
If Tottenham hadn’t ended their Champions League exile this year then it is possible we’d have seen a side of Son we’ve not seen before.
The future of Conte, however, appears less clear-cut. He’s fallen short of confirming that he’ll be at the helm next season.
Spurs will likely continue to be Son’s home and the club should not take that for granted
Paris Saint-Germain – should Mauricio Pochettino lose his job – will be an alluring prospect for Conte, who will hold talks with Levy and sporting director Fabio Paratici in the coming days to establish the club’s recruitment plans for the summer.
It seems inconceivable that Conte will walk away, but if the fiery Italian isn’t satisfied with the club’s plans to improve the squad then the notion of the 52-year-old leaving, as far-fetched as it might sound, shouldn’t be discounted.
And you wonder how Conte’s departure, even with guaranteed Champions League football, might impact on the mindsets of Tottenham’s key players – Son included.
Chances are that Levy will treat any overtures for Son like he has in the past.
The forward has three years left on his contract, his worth on the pitch is immeasurable while his commercial value to the club in the lucrative Asian market is profound.
That said, at 29, Son is entering the depreciation period. His transfer value, as brilliant as he is, is diminishing.
Levy, who knows his numbers, will be well aware of that, though the external revenue generated by Son makes up for his deceasing value.
‘Spurs is my home,’ said Son, as he collected his Golden Boot, becoming the first Asian player to win the accolade, after scoring a brace at Norwich on Sunday to take his tally for the season to 23 – without penalties – to finish the campaign as joint goalscorer with Mohamed Salah.
The likelihood is that it will continue to be his home. Tottenham probably take that for granted; but maybe they shouldn’t.