Shinji Kagawa is one of those types of players who can be devastating if utilised properly. The player's struggles at Manchester United drew an interesting reaction from the manager who knew him best: "Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw."
Kagawa would be reunited with Jürgen Klopp a year after the German tactician made these comments in 2013. Liverpool's manager is someone who has this uncanny ability to assess players and deploy them in positions where they can flourish. Kagawa has been restored somewhat after returning to Borussia Dortmund last summer but seems truly restored under Thomas Tuchel in a deeper central midfield position than his usual attacking midfield role. It takes time to restore confidence of a player who was a little lost under two Manchester United managers who didn't quite understand him.
For Kagawa, however, there is great affection for a manager who saw his potential as an unknown youngster in Japan and saw fit to bring him back after two years in England. The former Borussia Dortmund manager understands players, especially what young players can bring to a side. Any agent with a player on Liverpool's books with any shred of sense would be advising his client to do his utmost at Liverpool over the next 12 to 18 months. Kagawa's rise along with many others reveals the extent of the progress that can be made under the 48-year-old.
"I am interested in how much and how quickly Klopp, the manager that I know, can change the team at Liverpool," Kagawa told Omnisport. "He is a great coach and the results prove it, so I hope it will continue for him and I am interested in how much they can contend as a team this season. Already they have drastically changed and I have read articles that they won eight games in the last 10 games [seven in 11]. I do watch the games sometimes when I have time or when they broadcast on TV.
"Every moment with him is a good memory for me rather than picking a particular one up. It is also good memory to win the titles with him. He trusted and featured me. I was not famous coming from the second division of the J.League, so I totally appreciate that. It is great memories with him. He helped me to build up the steps leading to Manchester United, the club that everyone all over the world knows, the club that I have known since a little kid, in only two years after I joined from Cerezo."
Liverpool's manager seems to have a knack for giving the right young players an extended chance to shine and become part of his trusted unit. The hugs, the gigantic smile, the laugh, the irresistible quotes, the positive tactical framework, the ambition, and that unyielding passion for competing as well as winning are all part of what makes players such as Kagawa fond of the time they spent under Klopp.
He's the type of manager who can last more than three years at a club, can understand that what comes after he leaves is part of being a success as a manager, and make football fun to watch while competing at the top end of the table. The best part is that the journey is only beginning.