The signing of a four-year contract extension by Son Heung-min last month went almost unnoticed outside of Tottenham Hotspur as the speculation over Harry Kane’s future continued to swirl.
With the 28-year-old England captain determined to force a move away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the saga took another turn this week when Kane failed to turn up for training on Monday or Tuesday.
Spurs owner Daniel Levy has dug his heels in and with little chance of the impasse being resolved, these are tense times for fans of the north London club.
However, have Tottenham already pulled off their most important piece of transfer business this summer by retaining the services of Son?
Two of the most in-form players during the 2020/21 Premier League season, the Spurs frontmen had very different starts to their playing careers.
One was defined by loan spells in the English lower leagues, the other by top-flight German soccer.
Despite the Spurs supporters’ song claiming that Kane is ‘one of their own’, he ironically began his youth career at north London rivals Arsenal before joining the Tottenham Hotspur academy in 2004.
He signed his first professional contract with Spurs in July 2010 but didn’t make an appearance before being loaned to Leyton Orient in League One in January 2011.
Three loans followed over the next two years – Championship side Millwall in January 2012, Premier League Norwich for the first half of the 2012/13 season and finishing that campaign at Leicester City in the Championship.
Kane broke into the Spurs first team during the 2013/14 season, playing 19 times in all competitions and scoring four with two assists.
Meanwhile across Europe, Son joined Hamburger SV in 2008 following a youth career at FC Seoul.
Son initially started off in the Hamburger II squad in 2010, but after six appearances and one goal was moved into the Hamburg first team.
After three seasons at Hamburg, Son joined Bayer Leverkusen for the 2013/14 campaign where he spent two seasons before his transfer to Tottenham in 2015.
In his five first team seasons in Germany, Son scored 49 goals in 164 appearances.
It can be misleading to judge a soccer player based on their transfer fees and it is even more evident with Kane and Son.
Kane is yet to be sold for a transfer fee, while Son’s transactions total is £36m. Of that total, £27m was the fee that then Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino spent to bring the South Korean to the club from Bayer Leverkusen.
It is hard to see past the influence that Pochettino had on the two player’s careers at Tottenham.
Kane’s first full season for Spurs was in 2013/14 under managers Andre Villas Boas and later Tim Sherwood, where he scored four goals.
However, in Pochettino’s first season, 2014/15, Kane scored 31 goals and provided six assists in 51 appearances in all competitions.
In the six seasons since his breakout year, including stats from this season, Kane has scored 185 goals and made 39 assists in 259 appearances in all competitions.
Compared to Son, it is clear that Kane’s stats are superior. However, it is important to factor in the variety of positions that the South Korean has been used. Son features predominantly on the left of the attack but has played alongside Kane up front, most notably under Jose Mourinho.
Since signing for Spurs at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, Son has scored 107 goals and claimed 64 assists in 280 appearances.
The international scene is another factor to consider. But again it is the England captain who comes out on top.
In 61 appearances for the national side, Kane has scored 38 goals and provided 13 assists, whereas Son has 27 goals and 17 assists, albeit in 93 appearances for South Korea.
Kane’s figures are all the more impressive considering the inferior quality of opposition Son faces in the Asian Cup, World Cup qualification and friendlies.
Son is also South Korea’s main focal point, while Kane often drops deep and allows Raheem Sterling to take up space in and around the box.
Silverware and accolades
The duo have not collected any major club silverware, a statistic of which Kane is well aware. However they are not short of personal accolades.
Domestically, Kane has been named Premier League Young player of the Year, Tottenham Player of the Year, PFA Fans Player of the Year, England Player of the Year and Football Supporters Federation Player of the Year. He has also been named in the PFA Team of the Year on four occasions and collected the Premier League Golden Boot in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2021/21.
He has also achieved honours on the international stage, winning the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot.
Son has received European and international recognition. In 2019, he was nominated for the Ballon d’Or and the FIFPro World11. He was also awarded the FIFA Puskas Award for 2020 for his goal against Burnley.
The South Korean has been named Best Footballer in Asia five times, Asian International Footballer of the Year three times, Korean Footballer of the Year five times and has been awarded Korean Goal of the Year on three occasions.
In England, Son has won the Premier League Goal of the Season, Tottenham Goal of the Season on three occasions and Spurs’ Goal of the Decade for 2010-19.
Kane and Son have both played a major role in the transformation of Tottenham into genuine Champions League contenders in recent years.
The recent addition of a more creative aspect to Kane’s game (registering 17 assists last season) means he just about edges the battle.
However, Son’s influence cannot be overlooked.
The duo broke the Premier League record in 2021/22 for the most goal combinations in a single season – surpassing the 13 by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in 1994/95 – and are now only two short of the overall record.
Without partner in crime Son, Manchester City might just find that Kane isn’t half the player he was at Tottenham.