Tottenham's Son Heung-Min after 8 games in 26 days: 'Fatigue is an excuse'
Son Heung-Min has shrugged off concerns that he will arrive back to play for Tottenham Hotspur against Liverpool on Saturday already drained after his hectic summer schedule.
The South Korea forward will have clocked up almost 50,000 air miles since the end of last season by the time he returns to Tottenham this week. During that time he has played for Spurs in preseason in the United States and in the Premier League while also representing his country in two different tournaments and a raft of friendlies.
"I think this summer has been like any other summer, except that I've had to travel a little more," Son told reporters after a 0-0 draw with Chile on Tuesday evening. "I always tend to play a lot [in summers]. And I am not the only one playing many minutes. Fatigue is an excuse."
Son's World Cup preparations saw him play two friendlies at home and another two at a training camp in Austria, and ended with him sprinting the length of the Kazan pitch to score a 96th-minute goal against Germany to give the Asian team a memorable 2-0 win in their final group match.
After a short break, Son travelled from Korea to California via London to join Tottenham's preseason tour of the U.S. His cameo at Newcastle helped seal a win for Spurs in their first Premier League game of the new season, before the 26-year-old took the mammoth journey to Indonesia for the Asian Games.
In the humidity of Southeast Asia, Son played 524 minutes in six games over just 16 days, all under the pressure of being captain and being charged with leading the young team to gold at the Asian Games and winning military exemption, which they did with a 2-1 win over Japan in the final on Sept. 1.
With the international break then beginning, Son returned to Seoul for two more friendlies -- ending a run of eight matches in 26 days -- before finally heading back to London to rejoin Spurs.
- London to Seoul (5,500 air miles); friendlies vs. Honduras, Bosnia
- Seoul to Leogang, Austria (5,300 air miles); friendlies vs. Bolivia, Senegal
- Leogang, Austria to St Petersburg (1,100 air miles); World Cup base
- World Cup travel within Russia (4,500 air miles); three World Cup matches
- St Petersburg to Seoul (4,100 air miles); post-World Cup break
- Seoul to London (5,500 air miles) to L.A. (5,500 air miles); ICC vs. Barcelona
- Los Angeles to Minneapolis (1,500 air miles); ICC vs. Roma
- Minneapolis to London (4,000 air miles)
- Played in Premier League opener vs. Newcastle (10 minutes)
- London to Jakarta, Indonesia (7,4000 air miles); six Asian Games matches
- Jakarta, Indonesia to Seoul (3,300 air miles); friendlies vs. Costa Rica, Chile
- Seoul to London (5,5000 air miles) in time for Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Despite all that, Son insisted he never considered taking it easy against Chile on Tuesday.
"When I am playing for my country, there is not a single match that I can take lightly," he said. "I am a professional athlete. Especially with the big crowd that we had tonight, there's absolutely no way I could even think about taking it easy. I may play poorly at times, but I'll always try to give my best effort."
Now his focus is Spurs, who will play five more matches before the end of the month -- starting with Liverpool at Wembley this weekend and then Tuesday's Champions League clash at Inter Milan.
"This is just the beginning," Son said. "I miss my team. I am happy to be back playing in the Premier League and Champions League. Over the summer, I think I've learned a great deal about football."