Former Tottenham midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart has waxed lyrical about Son Heung-min and admitted that he thought the South Korean was too shy to become the leader he has in the North London dressing room.
Son played alongside the Dutchman during the 2012-13 season at Hamburg before the South Korean left to join Bayern Leverkusen.
Van der Vaart claimed that he was quick to spot the South Korean’s attributes and joked that playing alongside him as helped the Spurs forward become the player he is today.
He told The Athletic: “We had a really good connection. He was like a little boy at the time, barely out of his teens.
“I saw straight away that I need to play with him because I thought that us as a combination we could win some games. And that’s what we did.
“He became so good because he played one year with me,” Van der Vaart added, laughing. “You have to ask him that, I always tell him that.”
The former Spurs star also admitted that Son is one of the most two-footed players he had come across.
He said: “I think he doesn’t even know if he’s right or left-footed.”
That is certainly a big compliment from someone like Van der Vaart, who himself scored plenty of goals with his right foot.
According to The Athletic, the stats certainly back up that claim, with Son having scored a higher percentage of his goals with his weaker foot (43 per cent) than any other player since the 2015-16 season.
Van der Vaart also suggested that the South Korean was now more important to the Spurs side than Harry Kane.
“He is the main player for Tottenham,” the Dutch legend said.
“Yes there’s Kane but I think he’s maybe more important. With his pace he’s such a threat, he creates for himself and his team-mates and can score.
“When he’s not playing, I believe that is a bigger miss than when Kane’s not there. He played really well when Kane wasn’t there.”
The one aspect of Son’s evolution that Van der Vaart admitted to being surprised by is how he has become one of the most popular figures in the Tottenham dressing room, as opposed to the shy youngster he encountered at Hamburg.
The 37-year-old added: “I didn’t think that he had the (ability to be) really open and walk into a dressing room. Never. He was a little bit shy.
“But I saw him recently and he’s totally found his place at Tottenham. Really the right club for him. Everybody loves him, I’m so happy for him.”
Have something to tell us about this article?