Borussia Dortmund have spent much of this summer's transfer window being heckled from start to finish for a definitive answer on whether their players are coming or going. Yet one player who has been constantly linked—here by the Independent—with a move back to the club is Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa.
Following a rather dull spell at the English side, the media have always been quick to suggest that the Japanese international would welcome a return to the Bundesliga side that made him the star that he is today.
But would Jurgen Klopp even want him back?
There are a few things we'd have to decipher before Dortmund chose to make a big push for their former playmaker.
What we must first consider is just how good Kagawa was at the height of his powers in Dortmund. As most will know, Klopp's teams over the years have been synonymous with quick, skillful players, and where the Japanese international stacks up compared to them is perhaps the best way of gauging just how good he is—or at least was.
This current Dortmund team is dominated by two attacking playmakers in the form of Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while current Bayern Munich star Mario Gotze also offers some perspective of former midfielder greats in the black-and-yellow jersey.
Looking at the graph above, which shows the record of each of these four players' best-ever seasons at Dortmund, we can see just how Kagawa compared to the other three playmakers.
To the immediate delight of any fans of the club, we can clearly see that it is in fact Reus who has undoubtedly proven to be the best in any single season for Klopp's team. Yet, who then follows is Kagawa, who does well to undermine the best efforts of Gotze and Mkhitaryan with his blistering form from the 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign.
Yet this of course comes with a few caveats. First of all, we have to take into account that Mkhitaryan's best season in the Bundesliga for Dortmund was of course his first-ever season in the league, meaning that unless something unfortunate happens to his health or form, we should expect to see the Armenian's personal best continue to grow. Perhaps even overtaking Kagawa's before too long.
We should also consider that Kagawa's natural successor at Dortmund, Gotze, is in fact a whole three years younger than him and was only 20 years old when asked to emulate and ultimately replace the Japanese sensation. The German prodigy eventually grew into such a role, but having only really burst onto the scene before moving to Bayern, we can't really judge the player without first considering his age.
We then essentially find ourselves with just one player of the same age and experience to that of Kagawa: Reus. Who, coincidentally enough, happens to be the one player who has performed consistently above the form that Kagawa brought to Dortmund.
It wouldn't take a genius—let alone a qualified, talented coach like Klopp—to quickly realise that Dortmund already have a better player than Kagawa in Reus, with another Armenian star on his way to replicating the form that made the Japanese international such an enticing signing for Man United.
Dortmund would also have to consider Kagawa's form of late before making any push for the player. It's all too easy to suggest he simply hasn't settled in at the Premier League club. But they'd need some kind of reassurance that this was a simple, temporary blip in his development as a player.
At 25, Kagawa still has plenty of mileage left in him as an attacking midfielder, yet as we've seen from so many players over the years, once they hit a dip in form in their mid-twenties following a big-money move, it can almost be impossible to find that hunger and incentive to keep pushing to be a better player.
What many at Man United and perhaps even Dortmund may have already accepted is that Kagawa is simply content at this stage in his career. Making it incredibly unlikely that he'd return to the Bundesliga with that old spring in his step and a burst of pace to terrify any defender.
Another minor point that's also worth bringing up is the simple fact that Dortmund wouldn't have any space in their first team to squeeze Kagawa into.
Klopp and his backroom team have been incredibly efficient in their signings this summer to the point where Dortmund's front line effectively picks itself. Reus will play on the left, Mkhitaryan through the middle and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Jakub Blaszczykowski on the right-hand side.
The coach has of course brought players back to the club in the past following their desire to chase pastures new—current first-team central midfielder Nuri Sahin is just one who has turned his career around with a return to Dortmund—yet Kagawa's situation seems a little too undesirable for the Dortmund coach.
The wages and transfer fee alone would make such a move almost impossible, but when we consider that the Japanese international would spend much of the season on the bench, burning a hole through Dortmund's wage budget, it just doesn't make sense.
To put it quite simply; Dortmund do not need Shinji Kagawa.