Tottenham star Son Heung-min has credited Ruud van Nistelrooy for helping him to settle in Europe when the pair were at Hamburg.
Son has been in stunning form for Spurs this season – his second at the club since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in a £22million deal.
The 24-year-old began his career in Europe in Germany, where he returns tonight with Tottenham to take on Leverkusen in the Champions League and Son has been discussing how established stars Van Nistelrooy and Rafael van der Vaart helped him to come to terms with life after leaving his native South Korea for Hamburg as a teenager in 2008.
“At 16 it was difficult,” said Son. “When I came to Europe I knew no English and no German, nothing. I didn’t know any friends. No-one came with me. I felt so alone and so humble because everyone was helping me. It was tough in the first year.
“Sometimes I missed Korea. Everyone misses their home when they’re not there. But I wanted to play professional football in Europe, that was my goal and I came to achieve my goal.
“Ruud helped me a lot. He saw my first training session and he talked to me. He told me I was a good player. He gave me confidence and I want to thank him for that.
“We had a really good team and were successful for a time with him.”
Van der Vaart left Spurs to join Son at Hamburg in 2012, where the pair played together for a year, and Son says the former Real Madrid playmaker was also a big influence on him.
“He told me more about English football and how tough it was,” said Son. ‘I was only young. I listened to him and tried to learn from what he was saying.’
Son admits he is “nervous” about returning to Leverkusen to take on his former employers.
“It’s a special game for me,” he said. “‘I had some great times there. My first game in the Champions League against Manchester United at Old Trafford was an exciting memory and I scored two hat-tricks in the Bundesliga.
“I made so many friends. I am very excited and a little nervous to be going back. I’m not sure how the reception will be. For me, it will be good to see the fans, the players and the coach.’