Why $$$ and talent has Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool chasing Hamburg superkid Heung-Min Son
"Of course it is tempting when Liverpool approaches you and offers twenty million. Yet here he has confidence, he plays regularly and can get better. He is for us a very important player." - Rafael van der Vaart.
Make no mistake, Heung-Min Son is the real deal.
Chelsea and Manchester United have now joined Liverpool's long-term interest in the Hamburg striker, who at 20 is one of big revelations of this season's Bundesliga. The difference for Premier League clubs is that Son is South Korean and fast emerging as the biggest sports celebrity in his homeland since Park Ji-sung.
Park, now at QPR, was a huge money spinner for United, where he alone would annually rake in millions through shirt and merchandise sales. Observers say given Son's youth and his status as a natural goalscorer, the 20 year-old has the potential to surpass Park's revenue potential at his peak.
"If I play well, people at home do a lot of crazy things," says the 20-year-old. "There is quite a lot of mail - and love letters!"
Son has been with Hamburg for four years and after last season's introduction is now proving the coaching staff at HSV's academy correct. But with less than 18 months to run on his current deal, Son's agent, Thies Bliemeister, admits his exploits now have the game's biggest clubs chasing his signature.
"Inter Milan's emissaries saw a couple of his matches, but so far I have not had any contact with the Italian club's officials," he revealed last week.
Only on the weekend, Son was the focus of a German chat show. At just 20, it could hardly be 'This is Your Life', but his story this season has been enough for ZDF execs to bring Son to their national audience.
Among the guests was Son's father, Wong Jung, who insists he wants his son to ignore the transfer talk swirling around him.
"I hope that he continues in Hamburg, working hard and helping the team, so it qualifies for an international competition. Everything else does not interest me.," he declared.
"If I make mistakes on the field, my dad is really upset," Son said in an earlier interview. "He says, 'You have to be top in every game, not just now and then'.
"He's really hard on me."
One man grateful for Dad's tough approach is HSV coach Thorsten Fink.
Fink is also in new contract talks with the club and is confident they can reach agreement with Son.
"I think the chances are that Son stays with us are good. He knows that he is developing with us," said Fink.
HSV took Son in 2008 as part of a strategy agreement with the South Korean FA and two years later, at 18, he became the club's youngest ever goalscorer in the Bundesliga. A hero to the local Korean community in Hamburg, Son's status at home has allowed HSV to cash in. A first tour of South Korea came last year, which quickly was followed by two local advertising deals.
"Son is the key to everything," says Bliemeister. "Without him, none of this would be possible."
While Chelsea and United will turn Son's head, the ties he and his family established with HSV will prove difficult for any suitor to overcome.
In Chuncheon, HSV have established a soccer academy, which attracts young talent from across the country and where Son's father works as a coach. After the striker's success, there are now two more South Koreans making their way in HSV's academy.
"Sonny feels here our total confidence, we will be returning to Europe in the medium term, it will offer him the chance to develop well here," insists HSV football chief Frank Arnesen, who yet cannot rule out selling their jewel at the end of the season.
Asked if €10 million would be enough to land Son, Arnesen confessed: "If a club were to offer us such an amount, we would listen to them ..."