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(World Cup) Ex-Tottenham coach not surprised by Son Heung-min's evolution

All News 07:00 December 01, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

DOHA, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- Former Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino was South Korean star Son Heung-min's first manager in the Premier League in 2015, but the relationship could have started even earlier than that.

The Argentine tactician had wanted to sign Son in 2013 while he was managing another Premier League outfit, Southampton. Pochettino was so sold on Son's potential then that he is not surprised by Son's development into one of the top players in the world today.

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris-Saint Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino speaks at a media roundtable during the FIFA World Cup at the Host Country Media Centre in Doha on Nov. 30 2022. (Yonhap)

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris-Saint Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino speaks at a media roundtable during the FIFA World Cup at the Host Country Media Centre in Doha on Nov. 30 2022. (Yonhap)

"We saw the potential of him and the evolution was fantastic," Pochettino told Yonhap News Agency in a media roundtable in Doha on Wednesday, held on the sidelines of the FIFA World Cup. Pochettino is in Qatar to follow his native country, Argentina.

"He deserves the credit. Today, he's one of the best offensive players in the world," Pochettino added.

Pochettino recalled his first meeting with Son and his family in 2013, while Son was playing for Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga, the top German competition. Son ended up staying put in Germany, signing with Bayer Leverkusen, but after playing in one game in his third season there, Son signed with Spurs in August 2015.

In this EPA file photo from Jan. 21, 2017, Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino (L) and his player Son Heung-min embrace after their Premier League match against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. (Yonhap)

In this EPA file photo from Jan. 21, 2017, Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino (L) and his player Son Heung-min embrace after their Premier League match against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. (Yonhap)

Pochettino was at Spurs' helm from 2014 to 2019. After a so-so first season in England, Son blossomed into a dangerous scorer over the next three seasons under Pochettino, scoring 59 goals in 148 matches in all competitions from 2016 to 2019.

Pochettino said he never stopped following Son's career even after his initial attempt to poach him from Germany, and added Son was the first player he wanted to sign from outside when he went to Tottenham.

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris-Saint Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino speaks at a media roundtable during the FIFA World Cup at the Host Country Media Centre in Doha on Nov. 30 2022. (Yonhap)

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris-Saint Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino speaks at a media roundtable during the FIFA World Cup at the Host Country Media Centre in Doha on Nov. 30 2022. (Yonhap)

After Pochettino left, Son reached even greater heights and claimed the Golden Boot as the Premier League's scoring champion last season with a career-high 23 goals.

Pochettino made his next coaching stop at Paris Saint-Germain, a first-division French club where he said he was "blessed" to have coached three transcendent stars: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

"Messi has an ability to do everything simple. It's very hard to remember a season or training session when he's made mistakes," Pochettino said when asked to compare the trio. "Mbappe, just his physicality and his speed. Neymar is magic. He has charisma."

Pochettino was only at PSG from January 2021 to July this year, but despite that short stint, Pochettino said it was "a great experience not only as a professional, but on a human level."

"PSG gave me the opportunity to be able to be there with these giants," the ex-coach said. "To be their leader, It's been a great experience and it's definitely strengthened me as a person."

In this EPA file photo from Oct. 17, 2016, Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur (L) and his head coach Mauricio Pochettino chat during a press conference at BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, before their UEFA Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen. (Yonhap)

In this EPA file photo from Oct. 17, 2016, Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur (L) and his head coach Mauricio Pochettino chat during a press conference at BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, before their UEFA Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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