Borussia Dortmund head coach Juergen Klopp has revealed he remains in close contact with Shinji Kagawa about a return to Germany.
Kagawa left Dortmund for Manchester United in June 2012 but Klopp attempted to bring the Japanese international back to the Bundesliga ahead of the 2013/14 season after the 24-year-old midfielder had a tough opening campaign in the English Premier League.
In his first season with United, Kagawa started just 17 of his club’s 38 Premier League fixtures but rejected a return to Dortmund as he is determined to succeed in England.
While Klopp regularly speaks to Kagawa and would love to coach the Japanese playmaker again, Dortmund’s head coach believes he may have found a like-for-like replacement in ex-Shakhtar Donetsk attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
“That’s not far wide of the mark, a lot of ‘Micki’s’ movement is reminiscent of Shinji’s,” Klopp told bundesliga.de.
“He’s incredibly dynamic, a very intelligent reader of the game and a great finisher; a top-class footballer all-round, in short, and, to top it all, he’s a fantastic bloke as well, a real character; very funny and a bit cheeky.
“It’s great fun with him. Contact with Armenia wouldn’t necessarily be part of your regular weekly agenda, and then this guy comes here and you’re thinking ‘if they’re all like him, let’s get over there and get a fan friendship going’.”
While Klopp conceded it is not always easy to chat to Kagawa due to language difficulties, the 46-year-old former Mainz head coach maintained he knows ‘what the lad’s up to’.
“We still keep in touch,” Klopp said.
“It’s a bit difficult to speak to him directly, largely because his German hasn’t dramatically improved while he’s been in England.
“Talking to him on the phone isn’t what you’d call a piece of cake.
“But I’m in regular touch with his interpreter, who’s working in Nuremberg these days and I often have a few words with Shinji’s agent, Thomas Kroth, as well.
“Believe me, I’m always right in the picture about what the lad’s up to.”
Despite having lost Kagawa and Mario Goetze in the past two seasons, Klopp believes he has assembled a squad that covers all bases.
“We’ve responded to our situation and the problems that arose last season,” Klopp said.
“We need a full-time replacement for Felipe Santana and one for Lukasz Piszczek for the next six months.
“Sokratis (Papastathopoulos) fits the bill perfectly there.
“In midfield, we have to cover for the departures of Moritz Leitner, Mario Goetze and Leonardo Bittencourt and we’ve found a high-quality solution there too with three new players, when you count Jonas Hofmann alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“‘Auba’ can fortunately play as an out-and-out forward as well, so that’s us covered there, too.
“We really do think we’re well set and ready to keep following our own path.”