In Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan, there is an amateur football club for elementally school, junior high school and high school children called FC Miyagi Barcelona. And though it is not involved in a partnership with its illustrious Spanish namesake, the Asian club has a reputation for unearthing excellent players.
One of these was Shinji Kagawa. He was actually born in Osaka, but left for Miyagi to further his hopes of becoming a footballer in 2001, when he was only 12. In 2006, the skillful attacking midfielder penned a contract with Cerezo Osaka. He was then 17 and still going to school.
Kagawa did not play any single game in his first professional season, but made his debut for Cerezo the following year in the Japanese second division. Five goals in 35 games during that 2007 was sufficient evidence to underline his potential.
Kagawa played two games at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, and came into his own the following year, netting 16 goals in 35 matches for Cerezo, making his full Japan debut and scoring his first goal for the Samurai Blue against United Arab Emirates.
Kagawa, a forward who can also play out wide or as a holding midfielder, finished as the Japanese second flight’s top scorer last term.