Is ‘Super Shinji’ more than just a ‘shirt seller’?

As Manchester United seal the deal to sign Japanese rising star Shinji Kagawa the ever expected conspiracy theories begin to emerge that he is purely a shirt seller.

As Manchester United seal the deal to sign Japanese rising star Shinji Kagawa the ever expected conspiracy theories begin to emerge that he is purely a shirt seller. The transfer arrives shortly after the Red Devils revealed they had almost doubled their global fan base in the past five years to reach 659 million followers in which Asia serves approximately 325 million of those.

The lucrative Asian market holds a host of wealthy countries who frequently track football due to its enormous financial potential in terms of selling merchandise and building a brand. So Manchester United is not only a big football club but also amongst the biggest global brands in the world, already supported by 10 per cent of the worldwide population as its merchandise annually fetches many millions. There’s no doubt Kagawa’s switch to Old Trafford reaps in huge financial benefits as the next big thing is a major celebrity in his home country, so will surely excite the huge Asian fan base. A club of Manchester United’s stature may not need to capture such players for market access but by landing their first Japanese player it surely enables a long-running Asian commercial plan to only advance. 

Any new player that the Red Devils capture from the Far East will almost likely raise questions of whether he has solely been bought to boost shirt sales as an iconic figure. This was evident following the arrival of South Korean international Park Ji-Sung from PSV Eindhoven back in 2005 who was initially damned a ‘trophy’ signing, a marketing tool to help sell jerseys. Then again, in Korea it is reported that 29 million out of 49 million are Manchester United fans and Park’s popularity is one of the main reasons for that, though Shinji Kagawa has done more than enough during his two seasons in Germany to avoid the same fate of Park. However it won’t help that part of the club’s summer tour takes them to Asia for pre-season training, even if the destination is actually China and not Japan, they will merely certify themselves as a household name. 

United’s newest recruit follows the footsteps of four other Japanese players signed by a Premier league club (Junichi Inamoto, Kazuyuki Toda, Hidetoshi Nakata and Ryo Miyaichi), all of which deliver commercial value yet have failed to make a stamp in the English game, only inviting Shinji Kagawa to prove his worth on the big stage…

He certainly exceeded what was expected once he joined German champions Borussia Dortmund from second division, Japanese side, Cerezo Osaka for a relatively small fee in 2010. As the Japanese international quickly played an integral role in Dortmund’s rise to the top of German football, back to back championships were down to his outstanding creative performances. Such instrumental contributions had him named in the Bundesliga Best XI despite spending the majority of his debut season on the sidelines with a broken metatarsal sustained on international duty. The Japanese ace was just as good in the following campaign with the absence of the teams biggest sensation, Mario Gotze, due to injury, he stepped up to the mark in empathic fashion to become the league’s most efficient and best attacking midfielder.

During his two seasons he recorded 29 goals, 15 assists in just 70 appearances so boasts an impressive playmaking record that will only be built upon once arriving at Old Trafford as a true champion. The Bundesliga is one of the toughest leagues in Europe to win so having conquered Germany there is nothing to suggest Kagawa will need more time to get accustomed with English football.  

The Kobe born attacking midfielder’s game appears better suited to the EPL anyway so will surely thrive to help United reclaim the title amongst other reinforced squads. In such a prestigious league he will showcase vast football intelligence, creative instinct and lighting quick reactions that have arguably enabled him to become the best Japanese player in Europe. Shinji Kagawa has phenomenal talents that Manchester United do not currently have in their current crop in the centre of the field, his vision, trickery and eye for goal would prove to be a vital imaginative presence. The midfield was the main position the Red Devils struggled with last season due to such lacklustre performances, but this playmaker can both consistently create and score goals to form a lethal partnership with talismanic striker Wayne Rooney. At the moment, at the prime of his career, Kagawa has promise to bring the best out of his team-mates, capable of linking the midfield and attack from playing either wide or in a more central role as aided by positional smarts.

Not only will he inject youth, pace and natural flair to United’s midfield but also offer tremendous defensive capabilities, instantly pressing the ball with an incredible energetic work rate. A marquee signing such as Kagawa would boost the team’s morale, gel effectively and make strong contributions to signify a strong statement of intent to compete. What’s more under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson there isn’t a doubt Shinji Kagawa, 23, will become world class material as handed the weighty No.7 shirt he will soon be the name on everybody’s lips!