“Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw. But for most Japanese people it means more to play for Manchester United than Dortmund.” Jurgen Klopp
Shinji Kagawa has always come across as a heart warming kind of guy with his wide grin plastered over his face more often than not.
At Manchester United this year, the 24-year-old has settled in well despite being played out of position more often not and looking forward to next season, Kagawa is one player most United fans are really excited to see develop much like he did in his two years at Borussia Dortmund.
His relationship with Dortmund was a short but sweet love affair with both his manager Jurgen Klopp and the fans. He recently topped a fans’ replacement poll for Mario Goetze at Dortmund this year which is a testament to how much he is still adored by Dortmund’s supporters.
And in a fantastic, extensive interview with The Guardian ahead of Dortmund’s Champions League final clash with rivals Bayern Munich, Klopp revealed just why Kagawa left such an impact on him and why he is heartbroken to see how he is being used at Manchester United.
Speaking with Donald McRae, he said: “Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing!
“My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes.
“Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw. But for most Japanese people it means more to play for Manchester United than Dortmund.”
At points this season, Kagawa has been given the opportunity to impress from the #10 position and his best performances have come in those games – Norwich (H) and West Ham (A) spring to mind.
And with Rooney’s future in doubt, Kagawa should be given the #10 spot on a more permanent basis behind van Persie next year so United should reap the rewards.
It isn’t the first time that Klopp has publicly praised Kagawa since his departure last summer and these latest revelations only further endears Kagawa in my mind.
“We cried for 20 minutes, in each others’ arms, when he [Kagawa] left.” Jurgen Klopp
He is such a genuine character, much like Javier Hernandez is, and it is not hard to see why the Dortmund fans would take him back in a heartbeat.
And Klopp admitted that his heartstrings were tugged when Kagawa left Dortmund in the summer.
“We cried for 20 minutes, in each others’ arms, when he left,” he said.
“One year before that Nuri Sahin went because Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world. If players are patient enough we can develop the team into one of the biggest in the world.”
There is a real human touch to Kagawa that you don’t often see in footballers today. He has come from humble Japanese beginnings to three titles in three years in two of the biggest leagues in the world, yet has stayed firmly level. He hasn’t got a hint of a chip on his shoulder.
And having that sort of character can’t be underestimated. It must make such a difference in a dressing room to have that sort of relationship with a team-mate and it is exactly the team ethos that has embodied Manchester United over the years.
Next year could well be Kagawa’s year – if not for the football he plays, then maybe for the dance he might do in celebrating a goal. I, for one, can’t wait for the next instalment of the Shinji Show.
Photo: DAPD/Frank Augstein