Bayer not thrilled with Son's return

LONDON • Son Heung Min is remembered at Bayer Leverkusen as a star player who scored important goals, helped them to Champions League qualifications and brought additional clout on the commercial front.

Unfortunately for the South Korean, who returns to his former club with Tottenham in the Champions League tonight, the manner of his departure remains fresh in the memory too.

Son began last season as a Leverkusen player and featured in the first leg of their Champions League play-off tie against Lazio.

Then Tottenham ramped up their interest and, on the day before the return leg, the Korean went missing .

He had been ill the previous weekend and had missed Bayer's league fixture at Hannover, but he was needed against Lazio as Bayer were 1-0 down.

Leverkusen's sporting director Rudi Voller said that Son "would not have played anyway because he was sick at the weekend" but he also revealed that the forward had been in London to undergo his Spurs medical.

Bayer eventually beat Lazio 3-0, but some of the players and staff were unimpressed at Son's timing. Thirty-six hours later, Tottenham announced that he had joined them on a five-year contract.

The incident stands to colour how the 24-year-old is welcomed back to the BayArena, with local commentators predicting that he is not expected to receive the "homecoming hero" treatment.

Never mind that it had long been clear that Son saw the Bundesliga as a stepping stone to the English Premier League, the way that he left - with the elements of friction - jarred with his nice-guy persona.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Bayer not thrilled with Son's return'. Print Edition | Subscribe