Japan international Shinji Kagawa’s transfer to Manchester United has caused quite a stir among his national team-mates.
While the player himself spurned reporters as he insisted on focusing on his national team duties, his Samurai Blue team-mates were more than willing to discuss their compatriot’s bombshell move to the Premier League.
“For our generation, a Japanese player going overseas and joining a big club was something you’d only see in a comic book,” Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said.
“Shinji’s giving kids something to dream about. It’s incredibly big, what he’s doing.”
As Alberto Zaccheroni’s side prepared for their 2014 World Cup qualifier with Jordan on Friday, one of Kagawa’s team-mates threw his hat in the ring as the next Japanese player to join a top club.
“Shinji’s the perfect player for a world-class team. As a fellow Japanese I’m proud of him,” an unreserved Keisuke Honda told reporters.
“But at the same time as a rival, I’m aiming to play at a big club too, and I think I’d fit in just as well.”
Kagawa will become the fifth Japanese to play in the Premier League following Junichi Inamoto (Arsenal and Fulham), Kazuyuki Toda (Tottenham), Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton), and Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal and Bolton).
The 23-year-old will be the first Japanese player at Manchester United, who will also become the first club to have fielded players from Japan, South Korea and China.
“He can absolutely play well there, and as Japan’s number 10, I think he’ll be a major part of the team,” said 19-year-old Miyaichi, who may play against Kagawa next season as a member of Arsenal’s squad.
He added: “But first I have to earn my appearances. I’m looking forward to playing against him.”
But despite the media hype, defender Atsuto Uchida managed to find humour in the announcement.
“Didn’t they sign him because he doesn’t have any big scandals?” the Schalke man laughed as he recalled their 6-1 aggregate loss to the Premier League club in the 2010-11 Champions League semi-finals.
“I bet he’ll be on the front page in the morning.”
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