After Liverpool were linked with a move for Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Son Heung-Min, Jack Lusby outlines why the South Korean should be a prime target.
Liverpool could begin their summer of transfers in earnest with the pursuit of Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Heung-Min Son, reports claim, and the 22-year-old would be a fine addition to Brendan Rodgers’ squad.
Tentatively, the South Korean international’s agent is quoted as saying: “I know Liverpool have scouted him several times this season and would like to have him in their team.”
With Leverkusen reportedly eyeing a move for Hoffenheim winger Kevin Volland, there is every possibility that Son would be available to sign this summer.
Of course, this could all be pure agent talk, but Son is speculated to be available for £15 million.
So why should Liverpool be targeting the fleet-footed Leverkusen star this summer?
Son has been with Leverkusen for just two seasons so far, after joining the Bundesliga challengers in a £7 million deal in 2013, after a five-year progression through the ranks at Hamburger SV.
What drew Leverkusen to Son was his immense potential, and this has been honed dramatically since his switch.
This season, for example, the 22-year-old has so far scored 11 goals and made two assists in 27 league games—considering this has come largely from a left-wing position Son represents a highly accomplished goal-scoring midfielder, with more goals than any Liverpool player this season.
He is a phenomenally crafty, slight forward, capable of performing in variety of roles from out wide to behind the striker to centre-forward. His intelligence lends to this versatility.
There is an immense elegance to Son’s play, with his first touch and movement on and off the ball evoking an even more nimble Adam Lallana but, married with this Lallana-like finesse, Son also performs with a surprising, pacey intensity—he covers the ground quickly for a player so gracefully thorough.
With an average of 1.4 key passes per Bundesliga game this season, Son would be the fifth-most prolific creator of chances in the current Liverpool squad.
Furthermore, with an average of 1.7 successful dribbles per league game, Son would the fourth-best player at taking the ball past his man in Rodgers’ current roster.
An unquantifiable quality that will no doubt endear Son to Rodgers the most is his never-say-die work ethic. He will rarely give up on a seemingly lost cause, which particularly aids him when deployed in a centre-forward’s role, as he was for South Korea during the 2014 World Cup.
Son is an enjoyably slick, surprisingly clinical, versatile forward option.
But where could it go wrong for Rodgers in lining up a potential deal for the Leverkusen man?
When considering weaknesses for any potential deal to bring Son to Liverpool this summer, they largely preside on the Merseyside end of the discussion.
Firstly, with Leverkusen likely to qualify once again for the Champions League through their Bundesliga efforts this season—with Roger Schmidt’s side currently sitting fourth in the table with three games to go—to convince Son to join the Reds, who are unlikely to finish in the Premier League’s top four this season, seems like a tall order.
This is a problem Rodgers discussed last month:
“Liverpool is a phenomenal club that players want to play for, but, of course, players want to play at the top level of the game and if you are not in the Champions League it makes it difficult for you. We know that, but we just have to continue to fight in order to be a stable club in there – and we will continue to do that.”
What Rodgers would need to rely on, rather than the immediate prestige of top-tier European qualification, is his ability to sell Liverpool’s long-term project to Son, likely with him as a central figure.
His ability warrants this, of course, but it would still be a difficult sell.
Furthermore, as revealed by Dave Phillips via Twitter, the South Korean’s patriotic commitments may hamper any deal for the Reds:
“Heung-min possibly a no-go for #lfc – hasn’t done his mandatory 2 year military service.
“That military service would become compulsory c.2020, making any deal of v. limited future resale value without him receiving an exemption.
“Heung-min would need to e.g. win a medal at a major tournament (such as next year’s Olympics) to receive such an exemption. Big risk.”
If Son was required to enlist in 2020, this would mean that Liverpool would potentially only have access to his talents for four seasons — the risks beyond this would be that any resale value of an inactive Son would plummet.
Son’s potential success in the upcoming Olympic Games with South Korea, as Phillips outlines, could negate this, but it is a big risk for Liverpool.
They must weigh up whether a four-year spell at Liverpool for Son would be worthwhile, so where would he fit into Rodgers’ squad?
Where Might Son Fit in at Liverpool?
Owing to his typical tactical positioning for Leverkusen, it could be expected to see Son lining up as an attacking midfielder for Rodgers at Liverpool. He could a join fluid, interchanging advanced-midfield line with Philippe Coutinho, Jordon Ibe and Raheem Sterling.
Son would make an immeasurably better option in this role than fellow reported summer target, Denis Cheryshev.
But perhaps more interestingly is Son’s suitability to a centre-forward’s role.
He is slight, but hard-working and fast, with intelligent movement and a great finish—in theory, he would suit a role up front under Rodgers.
His goal rate of one every 2.5 games in the Bundesliga this season is nothing to be sniffed at when considering these mainly came from a left-wing position.
Convert him into a centre-forward, and Rodgers could see Son thrive even further.
Wherever he fits into Rodgers’ vision of Liverpool next season however, and so long as the manager and owners Fenway Sports Group weigh up the potential risks of any deal, Leverkusen’s Son should represent an excellent addition to the squad, with serious potential to develop further.
Statistics via WhoScored.
Should Liverpool target Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Heung-Min Son this summer? Let us know in the comments below.