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English Premier League

Son takes best footballer in Asia crown for third time as coach says World Cup-bound star wants to play at Asian Games

South Korean would miss Premier League kick off if he goes to Games but gold medal in Indonesia means he will avoid 21-month military service

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 2:44pm

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Son Heung-min has been named the Best Footballer in Asia by Chinese magazine Titan Sports for the third time ahead of what could be a busy summer for the South Korean.

The 25-year-old has won the award for three out of its five years, adding the 2017 title to those of 2014 and 2015 which he won while at German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.

The title is the Asian equivalent of France Football’s Ballon d’Or, picked by journalists from players who represent clubs in the Asian Football Confederation or are eligible to play for nations in the AFC.

Omar Khribin of Syria and Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal was second while Rafael Silva was third, the Brazilian who has since moved from Japanese J.League side and last year’s AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds to China League One side Wuhan Zall.

Son is keen to play for his country in the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer, the under-23 coach Kim Hak-bum told Yonhap news agency.

Kim could pick Son as one of his three overage players after the forward missed out on the last Asian Games in 2014 at home because Bayer Leverkusen refused to let him travel. The hosts beat North Korea in the final.

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If he does play and South Korea retain their football crown then he would not have to fulfil his 21-month military national service, which he would otherwise have to start before he turns 27 in July 2019.

All able-bodied men are expected to serve in the South Korean military but winning the Asian games or medalling at the Olympics allows for exemption.

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If Spurs allow him to go to the Asian Games then he would miss the start of the 2018-19 English Premier League season in August as the Games run from August 18 until September 2.

Son will play for South Korea at the World Cup in Russia which begins on June 14.