Shinji Kagawa is something of an oddity at Manchester United. Floundering in the Premier League, knocked out the FA Cup and whiskers away from a similar fate in the League Cup; David Moyes is a manager under pressure to find success with a squad that looks anything but competitive.
The champions have Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and a few up-and-coming defenders in Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. But when we look elsewhere, things begin to look a little bleak, which makes things all the more confusing when we consider a player like Kagawa, who just can't seem to find his way off the Old Trafford subs bench.
Despite moving to United just under 18 months ago, the Japanese international hasn't exactly thrived in England, leading to many fans and critics alike questioning whether the young playmaker should have made the move in the first place.
To understand the former Borussia Dortmund favourite's difficulties at the club, we have to of course consider and then accept the fact that former manager Alex Ferguson probably should have never signed him in the first place.
Kagawa is a player who essentially plays exclusively in the No. 10 role just behind the striker, which has for a long time now been considered Wayne Rooney's position of choice.
Whether Ferguson thought Kagawa would be comfortable playing out wide, which he has shown to be anything but the case, or in central midfield is uncertain. But Kagawa was never going to be Manchester United's No. 10 and, as such, was never going to succeed at the club as he had done in the Bundesliga.
Now let us consider what Kagawa's move has done in terms of the impact left on Dortmund in the summer of 2012.
Jurgen Klopp's side had just won their second consecutive Bundesliga title, and life was looking good at the Westfalenstadion. Mario Gotze was coming back from a long-term injury, Germany wonderkid Marco Reus had signed a deal back in January and the feel-good movement behind the plucky club from west Germany was at its highest. Then it was announced that the club had agreed to a deal with Manchester United for young playmaker of the season, Kagawa.
At the time, this shook Dortmund to the bone. Kagawa had just come off what was the season of a lifetime with 24 goals and 16 assists in just 57 games, and he was foreseen by many as the poster boy of Dortmund's bright new future as an outward-looking club that could harness the best talent from around the globe.
Yet, in hindsight, we can now look back at the circumstances that surrounded the club that summer and realise that Kagawa's move was far from Dortmund's worst-case scenario.
In this ESPN FC piece by the wonderfully informed Raphael Honigstein, we are led to believe that Manchester United were actually interested in not only signing Kagawa, but also his offensive partner in crime, Robert Lewandowski, as well.
As Honigstein puts it, Dortmund were willing to listen to specific offers for Kagawa—as they were undoubtedly under the impression that the player was desperate for a move to England's Premier League—but would not budge on Lewandowski. At all.
We can now easily deduce that Dortmund's reasoning for such an unusual transfer policy made perfect sense; Lewandowski was irreplaceable, but Kagawa was not.
Klopp has always had a strong say in players coming and going from the club since he arrived at Dortmund just under six years ago and, as he looked at his squad that summer, clearly knew that Kagawa wasn't going to be necessary for future titles.
That following season, Gotze reclaimed his spot as Dortmund's official No. 10 and led the club to a historic European Champions League final against Bayern Munich, scoring 20 goals and creating 23 assists along the way.
Dortmund had made it to Wembley and were on the minds of every football fan up and down the continent, whilst Kagawa finished his first season in Manchester without breaking in to double digits in either goals or assists.
Of course, such luck for Dortmund was going to change and, as found out just a few days ago, Dortmund's irreplaceable striker is now on his way to Bayern Munich were he will join the very man who helped Klopp's side forget all about the Japanese favourite: Mario Gotze.
Maybe, if fate will have it, we may just see Kagawa return to Dortmund and help that famous yellow wall forget all about the last stars to abandon this famous club. Yet until now, we're left wondering just what could have been if this Japanese star had only stayed in Germany and continued shining so bright.
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