London: Mauricio Pochettino has revealed that it was third time lucky when it came to signing Son Heung-min after the Korea Republic international turned down two earlier approaches from the Argentine.
Son joined Tottenham Hotspur in August 2015 and, after an up and down opening season in the English Premier League, has gone on to establish himself as a key member of a side that finished runners-up to Chelsea last season.
But Son, who will likely line up for Korea Republic in their crucial FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifier against Qatar on Tuesday, could well have been plying his trade elsewhere had he not rejected Pochettino’s initial advances.
“When I was at Southampton we tried to sign him while he was at Hamburg,” said Pochettino. “But he was still so young and he preferred to move to Bayer Leverkusen.
"We then tried to sign him when he was at Leverkusen too, but he didn’t want to join, so we were very disappointed. But then I moved to Tottenham and we approached him again and this time he changed his mind and came to England.”
Having arrived in London with a big reputation on the back of five impressive seasons in Germany, the Korean international began well before his form started to fade as injuries set in.
Son scores the winner in a 3-2 FIFA World Cup qualifying victory over Qatar last October
Spurs finished the season in second place although reports circulated that Son, the most expensive Asian player of all time, was considering his future at White Hart Lane.
“It was difficult for him in the first year in the Premier League,” said Pochettino. “It’s always difficult for a young player in a new league – especially the toughest competition in the world.
“His initial impact was amazing, massive, but then he got injured and struggled … by the end of the season he was a little bit worried about his future and it was difficult to convince him to stay.”
But persuade him to remain at Tottenham was exactly what Pochettino managed to do and Son returned to North London after reaching the quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with the national team.
Son’s second season proved far more fruitful as the forward became an integral part of an exciting attacking line-up that included Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, while also developing into a firm fans’ favourite as Spurs again came second in the league.
“He started pre-season late as he was at the Olympics, but then he ended up having a fantastic season,” added Pochettino.
“We are so happy for him as he’s a great player and a very nice person. We are delighted to have him as part of the team.”
Photos: Lagardère Sports