Shinji Kagawa’s arrival in Manchester will be met with the ‘kerching’ of cash registers all across Asia, but he is far more than just someone to boost shirt sales.
When Kagawa does complete his move to Manchester United – which will happen when he receives a work-permit, something that should be little more than a formality – their already massive profile in the Far East will soar to new heights.
United are already the most supported football club in Asia, thanks to clever marketing, friendlies, and the South Korean Park Ji-Sung, not to mention their years of success on the pitch.
Kagawa will obviously boost that further, but to suggest that’s why they’ve signed him is somewhere between naïve and moronic. They are a global, growing brand – with or without him.
Instead, the signing of the Japanese playmaker represents an excellent bit of business from Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill.
With the fee reportedly rising up to £17m, it is almost half of what Chelsea have shelled out on Eden Hazard. Combined with the fact his wages will also be much lower, many will be pointing to this as the latest example of ‘Glazernomics’, and that it further alludes to the fact they cannot compete financially with other clubs.
Whether that is true or not is moot; Kagawa may be half the price, but he is definitely not half the player. Indeed, while Hazard is a special talent, it is the former who should be best suited to hit the ground running in the Premier League.
And running is exactly what Kagawa will do. He has a great work ethic, evidenced by playing such a key role within Dortmund’s pressing style setup, and will do his bit defensively, while he also offers plenty of pace and movement going forward.
His preferred position – and the one to which he was accustomed in Germany – is behind the striker, the centre of a three in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Reports suggest Ferguson has indicated that’s where he will be used most, which in turn indicates that Wayne Rooney will be pushed into the main striker role, where he excelled in the 2009/10 campaign.
However, with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez also vying for a first team place, not to mention Rooney’s exceptional form last year playing just off the frontman, Kagawa may well be pushed out to the left of the three. Again, that won’t be an issue – he plays in that role at international level.
He gives Ferguson a third option as well, which would be to return to the fluid, interchanging three-man attack that terrorised England and Europe in the 2007/8 season. He may not be Cristiano Ronaldo, or even Carlos Tevez, but he’d certainly fit into that system.
At just 23, his best years are certainly ahead of him, which should excite Red Devils fans given the fact that he already has 21 Bundesliga goals to his name, in just 49 appearances.
At £17m, or whatever the fee, he would appear to be a bargain. He offers a lot of what United were missing last season: pace, movement, directness and passing ability. His marketing potential is simply an added bonus.