Shinji Kagawa was close to joining Real Madrid in 2012, but opted not to because he didn't want to risk living in the shadow of Mesut Ozil.
That's according to ex-Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who earlier this week told Japanese publication Shukan Bunshun (h/t ESPN's Richard Jolly) the details of Kagawa's decision to turn down the Spanish giants:
"It was not being able to always play at Real Madrid. My first choice at the time was Mesut Ozil. I told him honestly without hiding it.”
Instead, the former Borussia Dortmund hero joined up with Sir Alex Ferguson's United squad, while just a year later, Ozil left the Spanish capital for Arsenal.
The immediate irony of the whole affair is that, despite his best intentions to move to another top club while not sacrificing playing time, Kagawa has inadvertently slipped into the backdrop at Old Trafford.
In his 18 months playing in the English top flight, the 24-year-old has just 20 Premier League starts to his name, only three of which have come this term, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
At Signal Iduna Park, Kagawa was one of Jurgen Klopp's jewels, but has fallen victim to the tactics employed by both Ferguson and David Moyes during his time at United, mostly filling in on the left wing.
As Jolly suggests, the attacking midfielder has been linked with a return to his German stomping ground, but it remains to be seen whether the two clubs will be able to come to an agreement that suits all parties concerned.
With Wayne Rooney standing in his way at Old Trafford, it's probably fair to say that Kagawa still made a wise decision in steering clear of the Bernabeu. Ozil produced a magnificent spell last season, claiming an incredible 16 assists and nine goals.
Kagawa's 2012 exit from Dortmund had always been likely considering his contract at the Bundesliga club was nearing its end at a time when Marco Reus was confirmed as Mario Gotze's replacement. Dortmund were loathe to lose the Japanese playmaker, but they always knew his departure was likely.
However, with hindsight, it now seems the past 18 months may have been better served under Klopp.
A major shake-up of the Manchester United approach under Moyes had looked Kagawa's best hope for a change in fortunes at Old Trafford, but Moyes has quickly established Rooney as his main man in Kagawa's favoured position.
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