Son ‘sad’ and ‘sorry’ to be leaving Tottenham for Asian Cup

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              Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min takes a shot to score his side's third goal of the game against Cardiff, during their English Premier League soccer match at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Tuesday Jan. 1, 2019. (Mark Kerton/PA via AP)
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LONDON (AP) — Son Heung-min is looking forward to making history with South Korea at the upcoming Asian Cup.

He’s just sorry it has to come at the expense of helping Tottenham maintain its title challenge in the Premier League.

Son might be in the form of his career, having scored eight goals in his last nine games as Tottenham moved into second place in the league and into serious contention for the title.

He will play one more league game — against Manchester United on Jan. 13 — before leaving for international duty at the tournament in the United Arab Emirates. He could be away for up to five of Tottenham’s matches in all competitions if South Korea reaches the Feb. 1 final in Abu Dhabi.

Son also missed the first part of the English season while playing for South Korea at the Asian Games. He led the team to the title, securing exemption from military service in the process.

“Of course I feel very sorry because I miss already in September,” said Son, speaking after scoring his latest goal in Tottenham’s 3-0 win at Cardiff.

“I feel sorry for my teammates, the fans and the coaching staff. It’s difficult. Sometimes you think it’s a bit sad, but it is also important for my country. I hope I can keep my form for the national team and when I come back here again as well.”

Son is likely to miss league games against Fulham, Watford and Newcastle, as well as the second leg of Tottenham’s English League Cup semifinal against Chelsea.

Spurs would want Son back in time for the Feb. 10 match against Leicester in the league, but there’s a chance he’d be tired after his exertions in the UAE where South Korea heads as the favorite. After all, he struggled on his return from the Asian Games.

“I was tired after the Asian Games because in that tournament I was playing after (every) two or three days,” Son said. “It is very important to be right mentally at the Asian Cup and to come back with a strong mind and be strong physically.

“It (November) was a turning point for me because I was tired and I didn’t travel. It was good to have this time, some days off, and hard sessions with the team. But the Asian Cup is big for us because we have not won it for 59 years.”

The Asian Cup starts on Saturday. South Korea and Tottenham have agreed that Son only needs to link up with his international teammates in time for the start of the knockout stage.