No Ballon d’Or, but Son comes closer than any Asian player

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No Ballon d’Or, but Son comes closer than any Asian player


Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring against Crvena zvezda on Nov. 6 in Belgrade. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

Korean football star Son Heung-min has become the top Asian finisher ever in voting for the prestigious Ballon d’Or Award.

In a ceremony held in Paris on Monday, Son, the Korean men’s national captain and attacking ace for Tottenham Hotspur, came in 22nd place among 30 nominees in balloting for the annual award recognizing the world’s best football player. FC Barcelona icon Lionel Messi bagged his record sixth Ballon d’Or to break a tie with Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Presented by “France Football” magazine, the Ballon d’Or recognizes the best in football in a poll of international journalists.

Son was the first Asian player to be nominated since Younis Mahmoud of Iraq in 2007. Mahmoud finished 29th that year and had been the only Asian to appear in the top 30 final rankings before Son.

Two Korean players had been nominated for the Ballon d’Or: former Anderlecht forward Seol Ki-hyeon in 2002 and ex-Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung in 2005. But there were 50 candidates in those years and neither Seol nor Park earned a vote.

Son scored some key goals to lift Tottenham Hotspur to their first UEFA Champions League final in June, where they fell to Liverpool. Son ranked second on the team behind Harry Kane with 12 goals in the Premier League during the 2018-2019 season and had 20 goals in 48 matches across all competitions.

He has nine goals in 18 matches so far in the 2019-2020 season, with four in the Premier League and five in the UEFA Champions League. The Spurs have shaken off a sluggish start and climbed to fifth in the Premier League table, and have also clinched a knockout berth in the Champions League with one group match remaining.

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