Maybe it has a touch of racism, or maybe it’s just people being pragmatic. The fact is that many believe Shinji Kagawa may be headed to Manchester United for the sole reason of boosting their jersey sales in Japan, ignoring another pretty important fact – Kagawa is a really good player.
Park Ji-Sung is looking more and more like a player who won’t return for another season at Old Trafford, with 2011-2012 being his seventh with the club since joining from PSV. His ability to play multiple positions and the ‘Big Game’ flair that goes along with him didn’t stand the test this season as Park didn’t get too many chances and didn’t do much with those he had.
United have been interested in Kagawa for about a year now. The 23 year old Japanese player made quite an impression during his first two seasons with Dortmund, winning two league titles after arriving for a now ridiculous fee of €350,000. Although Dortmund seem reluctant to let anyone from Klopp’s puzzle depart, Kagawa looks closer to being sold than other prize prospects in the club.
Kagawa isn’t the same player as Park. He can play on the wing, but with a much more attack oriented purpose, but he thrives as an attacking midfielder, while Park is more of the industrious type when placed in the middle of the pitch. It’s not replacing two similar things for the sake of age and freshness. Kagawa just adds much more to the attack, which is something Alex Ferguson missed from his midfield this season.
And while signing Kagawa will provide a huge boost for jersey sales in Japan, as some clubs have learned through the years and have gone to ways of signing Asian players just for the sake of tapping unreached markets, United’s commercial director insists that it isn’t the case with Kagawa.
We don’t sign players to sell shirts. When you look at the success we’ve seen in that part of the world, it isn’t down to any one player or person. Of course, Ji is a fantastic player, was captain of the South Korea team and continues to be a key part of our squad. But for Manchester United, it’s more than any one player. It was more than George Best, it was more than Bryan Robson, it was more than David Beckham, it was more than Cantona, than Park.
Ji is very popular in Korea, just as Javier Hernandez is hugely popular in Mexico, but Paul Scholes has his own Chinese character. These are huge stars and the big stars are the big stars in every country. Our games are shown 1.1 billion homes across the globe and you think ‘which film does that 60 times a year?
If you can sign an excellent player who has produced plentifully for the best team in Germany over the last couple of seasons while actually strengthening your commercial appeal in a very lucrative market – where’s the harm in that?