Shinji Kagawa the odd one out as Asians struggle

Japan international Shinji Kagawa looks set to be a high-profile mover in the European transfer market this summer, but Asia's other big names have endured a tough season on the continent.

Updated: May 18, 2012 11:03 IST
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Hong Kong: Japan international Shinji Kagawa looks set to be a high-profile mover in the European transfer market this summer, but Asia's other big names have endured a tough season on the continent.

The Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder revealed on Wednesday that he had met Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, with the deposed Premier League champions believed to head a queue of English clubs chasing Kagawa's signature.

Kagawa, who scored 17 goals to help Dortmund to a league and cup double, has made no secret of wish to move and the German club look set to cash in on the 23-year-old, who cost only 350,000 euros ($450,000) in 2010.

"I want to think hard before making my decision," said Kagawa, who has been valued at around 13 million euros, a modest price because he has only a year to run on his current deal.

But while Kagawa could be on his way to Manchester United, South Korea's Park Ji-Sung may be headed for the Old Trafford exit after a disappointing season prompted speculation over his future.

Park, 31, made only 10 Premier League starts all campaign culminating in last month's pivotal Manchester derby, in which he was substituted before the hour-mark. Rivals City won 1-0 and then sealed the title last weekend.

This week Park, who has a year left on his contract, said he wanted to retire at Manchester United -- but he admitted that his ambition may not "translate to reality".

"It is true I want to retire at Manchester United," Park told reporters in South Korea, according to the Korea Times.

"But what I want does not always translate to reality. It becomes more feasible when the whole situation clicks."

However, Park is at least faring better than his compatriot and Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young, whose season hit a new low on Thursday when he was dropped by the South Korean national side.

Despite hardly featuring for Arsenal since last year's move from AS Monaco, Park was expected to lead South Korea's assault in final qualifying for the 2014 World Cup and remains one of their most potent weapons.

But South Korea ditched him over an ongoing row about his move to delay compulsory military service by obtaining a 10-year residency visa for Monaco.

"A national team must take into account not only an individual player's capability but the atmosphere of the whole team," said coach Choi Kang-Hee, suggesting disapproval for Park in the dressing room.

Striker Ji Dong-Won, 20, is in the squad for two World Cup qualifiers next month, but he also endured a wretched time in the Premier League, scoring two goals all season for Sunderland and spending most his time on the bench.

And there was misery for Bolton Wanderers' Lee Chung-Yong, who missed almost the whole season after breaking his leg in pre-season.

Bolton, who were relegated on a thrilling final day of the Premier League season, snapped up on loan Arsenal's young Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi in the winter transfer window, and he enjoyed a bright start before falling away.

Meanwhile CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda, the flamboyant 25-year-old Japanese who has been mooted for a move to England, is only just returning to action after nine months disrupted by a knee injury.

Japanese players had happier times elsewhere in Europe, with German clubs in particular eyeing up the country for bargain buys this summer.

Midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake has sealed a move to Nuremberg, his club Cerezo Osaka said on Thursday, while Kashiwa Reysol and Hanover have reached an agreement over under-23 international defender Hiroki Sakai.

They will join a host of Japanese in Germany, including Wolfsburg's dynamic midfielder Makoto Hasebe, the Japanese skipper, and striker Shinji Okazaki of Stuttgart.

Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, 29, who plies his trade for Lierse SK in Belgium, has set his heart on a move to Italy and has been linked with AC Milan.

"I want to play in Serie A. I practised with Parma for one month when I was 18 and I visited Italy many times. I played in Belgium to get used to the European style of football, but the level is very low there," said Kawashima.

If he does join AC Milan, he will face compatriot Yuto Nagatomo, the Inter Milan full-back who has surpassed expectations since moving to Italy.

Only one Chinese is a top-flight regular in European football, Zhang Chengdong, who plays in Portugal's Primeira Liga for Beira-Mar.

Most the traffic is now going the other way, with Nicolas Anelka lured to the newly rich Chinese Super League (CSL) by Shanghai Shenhua, and Guangzhou Evergrande snapping up World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi this week.

"I think one of the reasons there aren't more Chinese in Europe is because the CSL is uncomfortable with being a 'feeder' league and does everything it can to hold onto its talent, including more often than not charging extremely high transfer fees," said Brandon Chemers, of

"The other problem is China's national team and clubs have failed to get themselves onto the larger stage.

"China's constant failure to qualify for the World Cup and its getting eliminated in the group stage of the previous two Asian Cups has meant that scouts don't get much of an opportunity to see them."

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