How often in European football do we see clubs invest in an overseas talent who ultimately fails to deliver routinely on the biggest stage and eventually fades into relative obscurity?
Far too often is the correct answer.
It’s become a particularly common trend on English shores, with the Premier League seemingly having a preference to buy from abroad in the hope of unearthing the next foreign gem. Each year sees hordes of players arriving from La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and elsewhere, and each year plenty of them flatter to deceive when it matters most.
A perfect example of one such import would be Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international was purchased by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012 and billed as being yet another top playmaker to pass through the halls of Old Trafford. There’s no doubting that he’s talented, but to suggest that he’s lived up to said billing would be nothing short of ludicrous.
In fairness to the player himself it’s been an conundrum which has existed from the very start of his United career; just why isn’t he given the game-time his performances at Borussia Dortmund prior to his Premier League switch merited?
Under Ferguson Kagawa was used often, but he never managed to nail down the starting XI spot he must have assumed he was going to be awarded. When David Moyes was handed control his playing-time was cut further, and the big-money purchase of Juan Mata in the January transfer window added yet another individual to the list of players above him in the pecking order.
Turan the replacement?
Now Louis van Gaal reigns supreme and the talk of the town is that Kagawa’s time in Manchester - as pointless and unfortunate as it may have been - is fast approaching its end. Whether you believe the 26-year-old has been given enough of a platform upon which to prove his worth to United or not the rumours would have you believe that Van Gaal is looking to use him as a makeweight in a deal for Atletico Madrid star Arda Turan.
Without delving too deep into the feasibility of the transfer actually coming to fruition, straight away United fans must be questioning the idea of letting Kagawa plus £16million leave the club in order to capture a player who, though admittedly talented, wouldn’t offer anything that the man he is replacing didn’t.
Valued at €40million it’s clear that Atletico won’t be letting Turan go unless their demands are met, but are United really going to consent to the aforementioned player swap deal?
What the stats say
First of all on stats alone Kagawa appears to be the more favourable option of the two when it comes to assists and playmaking. In the 2012/13 season - which we’ll use as it was the one wherein Kagawa played the most games - the United man managed an average of 0.17 assists to his rival's 0.12 a game, as well as notching an average of 41.60 passes each match, Turan made 32.87.
Then there’s the successful pass ratio which also favours Kagawa. He has 37.30 to Turan’s 27.59. Goals scored? The Japan international averaged 0.30 a game to his Turkish counterpart’s 0.16.
Though it’s true that statistics alone often fail to paint a picture truly reflective of the argument at hand, few can deny that there’s a question to be asked as to whether or not Turan would actually be worth the considerable outlay Van Gaal is said to be planning.
Coming off the back of a great season under Diego Simeone he is rightly hot property, but then again wasn’t Kagawa after Dortmund’s Bundesliga-winning campaign of 2011/12?
He has so far toiled to no avail and Turan, who is a similar type of player, surely wouldn’t offer anything massively different, would he?