Shinji Kagawa has become a household name since joining Manchester United this season, with a series of eye-catching performances helping establish him with the Premier League champions. The attacking midfielder is equally comfortable tucked in behind the front two or playing on the left flank.
Kagawa’s professional career began when he was signed by Cerezo Osaka in 2006 while still at high school in Sendai. He represented Japan through the youth ranks and played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kagawa really started turning heads in 2009 when he won the golden boot for the Japanese second division and catapulted Cerezo back to the top tier. Despite asserting himself well in the J-League, Kagawa was omitted from Japan’s 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ squad.
That summer, Kagawa joined his Japanese colleagues playing in Europe when he signed with German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund. Although some German observers were initially sceptical about whether the relatively unheralded Kagawa could cope in the Bundesliga, his knack for scoring and consistent performances soon made him a fan favourite. At the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, Kagawa cemented his grip on the national team’s No10 jersey, but his tournament was curtailed by a serious injury in the semi-final against Korea Republic that sidelined him for three months.
The goals flowed again the following season and Kagawa was a central figure as Dortmund won back-to-back league titles. His silky skills and deft passing caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, and Kagawa moved to Old Trafford in June 2012. Although a knee injury ruled the 24-year-old out for several months, he has settled well with the Red Devils and even became the first Asian to score a hat-trick in the Premier League.
Kagawa grew up admiring iconic forward Kazuyoshi “King Kazu” Miura, who played professional football in Brazil. Now, the FIFA Confederations Cup will give Kagawa the chance to shine there, too.