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“It wasn’t easy to cook at the house, but we divided chores so if, say, I was in charge of laundry, Heung-min would be in charge of washing the dishes.”

Kim Min-hyeok, a tall and imposing centre-back for Seongnam FC (recently relegated from the Korean top flight), is explaining how it was living with a teenage Son Heung-min when the two of them, along with another young Korean, Kim Jong-pil, shared a house having all moved to Germany to play for Hamburg’s youth teams in 2008.

Fourteen years on, Kim is speaking to The Athletic at his club’s training ground just outside Seoul, while Son has developed into a global superstar with Tottenham Hotspur. Their shared experience as teenagers in Hamburg feel a world away.

But this was where it all began in Europe for Son, and now, with Spurs preparing to face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League group stage tonight (Tuesday), he is back on German soil.

In fact, it was Frankfurt that Son, Kim Min-hyeok and Kim Jong-pil (now a defender with Korean second-tier side Gyeongnam FC) flew to from Seoul, arriving as callow teenagers in a completely alien environment.

It can’t be overstated how challenging this was culturally and linguistically for the three youngsters.

But after some tough times, Son ended up being a big success in Germany.

He had been 16 when he joined Hamburg, having been scouted by the club’s youth-team coach Soner Uysal and former player turned agent Thies Bliemeister, who went on to be the forward’s representative for more than a decade.



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