Neil Humphreys: Son Heung Min may have to leave Spurs to reach peak
South Korean may have to leave Spurs to reach his peak
Being brutalised by an Italian defender is a rite of passage for a winger.
It's a sign of respect. They kick only when they care.
And Andrea Barzagli really cared about Son Heung Min yesterday. He couldn't take his studs off the Tottenham forward.
At Juventus, the thinking has always been if you can't beat them, maim them.
Son brought his speed so Barzagli brought his hatchet. That's the Italian way.
In the end, Son won a personal battle, but lost the Champions League war.
Tottenham are out and the South Korean learned the hardest of lessons. He's good, but not quite good enough.
Or maybe he is, but his squad isn't.
He now dances to the broken record that has played in the Tottenham dressing room all season long.
Son continues to achieve in a limited squad. But like Harry Kane and Dele Alli and even Mauricio Pochettino, he might have to leave to reach his peak.
Being the most talented Asian in world football has a certain cachet and undoubtedly opens lots of doors in South Korea, but the empty trophy cabinet must be a source of irritation.
His pedigree deserves better, even more so considering Son was Juve's major source of irritation at Wembley.
The Italian side afforded Son the highest of honours - twice.
First, Barzagli realised that he had more chance of catching lightning on a sunny day, than catching Son at night.
So the gnarly centre-back, less than two months from his 37th birthday, borrowed from the big book of Italian defending cliches and tried to separate Son from his legs.
The 25-year-old was stamped on at every opportunity.
Barzagli was slower, but perhaps smarter, escaping an obvious red card by carrying out his acts of violence in subtle fashion.
Son still lacks these streetsmarts, the kind that has carried an ageing Juventus side to two Champions League finals in three seasons, the kind that Tottenham still don't have, the kind that may convince Son to complete his education elsewhere.
He scored a scuffed goal, but squandered two decent chances. He was a fly that the Italian side struggled to swat.
So Massimiliano Allegri changed tactics and personnel to fix the buzzing irritant.
The pest control was precise and effective.
Juve switched to a tighter 4-3-3 and Barzagli was immediately protected from Son's firing line.
Allegri had paid the Son one hell of a compliment, throwing out his original plans to neutralise the livewire.
But Spurs had no counter-strategy. Their best were already on the pitch. Juve's substitutions highlighted Spurs' inferior squad. Pochettino had no alternative but to persist with his first XI until it was too late.
Son was left surrounded and mostly isolated.
His influence waned and the inevitable Champions League defeat ended up encapsulating his situation at Tottenham.
Son has scored 16 goals in 42 games this season and has been involved in 25 Spurs goals in all.
His impact cannot be understated and yet his report card, even against Juventus, has a whiff of "could do better". He's nearly there, but not quite.
His late miss, just inches off target, provided Wembley with a heartbreaking illustration of Tottenham's current status; close, but not close enough.
The winger's career hasn't reached a crossroads, but it'll loom large on the horizon if Spurs fail to win the FA Cup and end another season with nothing but patronising plaudits for their energetic displays.
Tottenham face a tricky trip to Bournemouth on Sunday and must shake off any Champions League despondency as they seek a top-four finish.
Son, like this teammates, must be aware of his squad's limited shelf life. Without reinforcements, Spurs will inevitably splinter as their prized assets tire of punching above their weight. It's exhausting.
Son's travails against Juventus highlighted the difficulties of playing with such a permanent handicap. Early on, he terrorised Barzagli. By the final whistle, he was in tears.
The contest between winger and wise old monster epitomised the current state of their respective clubs.
When Barzagli got into trouble, help soon arrived.
When Son needed help, he was left in trouble.
Should more support not turn up in the summer, he couldn't be blamed for seeking it elsewhere.