Tottenham strike deal to let Son Heung-Min play for South Korea at Asian Games
Tottenham have released Son Heung-Min for the group stage of this month's Asian Games on the condition that he misses matches for South Korea later in the season.
Spurs have no obligation to let Son take part in the Asian Games, which take place between Aug. 10 and Sept. 1. And, given that Harry Kane and Dele Alli are only returning to training on Monday after reaching the World Cup semifinals, the timing of the tournament in Indonesia is far from ideal for the club.
Tottenham initially wanted to keep Son for their first two Premier League matches against Newcastle and Fulham, effectively ruling him out of the group stage at the Asian Games.
But they have instead agreed that Son can fly out and join South Korea's under-23 squad as an overage player after the opener at St James' Park on Aug. 11. He will then miss South Korea's opening game against Bahrain on Aug. 12 before arriving the next day.
In exchange, it has been agreed that the 26-year-old will miss international friendlies in November and the first two group matches at the Asian Cup in January, against Philippines and Kyrgyzstan.
The Korean federation announced the plan on Tuesday, and sources close to Tottenham confirmed them on Wednesday.
This month's Asian Games are particularly important for Son as a gold medal would exempt him from his impending 21-month military service. South Korea won the last edition of the tournament in 2014.
Nonetheless, the Spurs forward admitted on Tuesday he has mixed feelings about leaving his club teammates just as their Premier League campaign is kicking off.
"I feel sorry because Tottenham is my team and I feel very sorry to be leaving my teammates," Son said. "I am playing for my country and that is also important, but honestly I feel very sorry about that. That is what I feel."
Meanwhile, Iraq's football team withdrew from the tournament of the Asian Games, Reuters reported, potentially throwing the competition into turmoil less than two weeks before kickoff.
Earlier this week, Iraq officials were reported to have been fired over their involvement in the selection of overage players for the nation's under-16 team after they were stopped at passport control on their way to participate in a regional tournament.
Last week the Asian Football Confederation conducted a redraw of the competition's group stage to add Palestine and the United Arab Emirates after the pair had been left off the original entry list.
That meant two of the six groups swelled from four teams to five, but Iraq's withdrawal now means one group -- containing China, Timor Leste and Syria -- will feature just three countries.