Manchester United, following the respective exits of the experienced Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic this summer, desperately require the addition of at least one world-class centre-back prior to the beginning of their eagerly-anticipated 2014/15 Premier League campaign.
While many star names - as well as several budding internationals - have been speculated upon in the press as potential signings, one name has stood out far beyond that of any other defender.
I am of course here talking about Mats Hummels, the Borussia Dortmund star who now rightly possesses a reputation as arguably the most complete and indeed most coveted centre-backs in European football.
As part of Manchester United's supposed interest in the 25-year-old, recent reports have suggested that there exists the real possibility of the two clubs discussing a potential exchange deal involving Hummels and a certain Shinji Kagawa, the latter himself a former fan's favourite at Signal Iduna Park who is still held in incredibly high regard by Dortmund's supporters and, most crucially, manager Jurgen Klopp.
Kagawa swap offer
If indeed the offer of Kagawa as part of any deal does go a long way to softening the Bundesliga heavyweight's stance with regards to the sale of Hummels, then I believe Manchester United and Van Gaal should not hesitate in pressing ahead with a concrete proposition of that nature.
While Kagawa is clearly an an enormously gifted playmaker with an abundance of impressive technical qualities, his two-year stint at Old Trafford to date has, it's fair to say, not quite gone according to plan by any means.
Quite simply, the Japanese international - who made three appearances for his country at this summer's World Cup but was sadly unable to prevent Alberto Zacherroni's side from exiting the competition at the group stage - has rarely been afforded the opportunity to flourish in his favoured role on a regular basis.
Difficult spell at Old Trafford
While his first season at Manchester United brought a Premier League trophy, Kagawa's problems at the club were clearly exacerbated during David Moyes' frankly disastrous 10-month reign in charge, with the Scot seemingly not content to put any sort of real or enduring faith in the 25-year-old even during the club's darkest periods under his misguided control.
Although it is likely that a number of Manchester United's lesser-used players will be given a fresh chance to impress when Van Gaal finally arrives following the Netherlands' own World Cup campaign, it is questionable that the experienced Dutchman - particularly given his well-documented and positive working relationship with Robin van Persie - will be any more inclined than Moyes to give Kagawa the regular opportunities that he so evidently craves behind the striker.
Hummels, meanwhile, is just perfect for Manchester United, who appear to rate him at around the £20 million mark. A dominant defender with all the physical attributes necessary to thrive in the physical world of English football, he is also incredibly comfortable in possession and would instantly command a starting berth in the Premier League.
One just had to see him perform during Germany's comfortable 1-0 win over France in Rio de Janeiro on Friday evening to catch a startling glimpse of his quality, as Hummels produced a defensive masterclass to all but nullify Les Bleus' previously impressive attacking threats.
Kagawa's ability and potential is such that Van Gaal - who will be charged with doing his utmost to strengthen the current squad rather than weaken it with unnecessary departures - should look to first gauge the sort of fee it would take to lure Hummels away from Dortmund.
If such a price proves to be out of his range or if indeed Die Schwarzgelben are reluctant to engage in transfer talks without talk of an exchange deal, however, then it would be in everyone's best interests to use Kagawa as somewhat of a sweetener.
For Manchester United it would significantly bolster their defence, while Dortmund would, in return for Hummels, receive a player for whom the club's supporters have never lost their passion.
A move back to his former club should not be viewed as an admission of defeat on Kagawa's behalf either. While Dortmund suffered a disappointing 2013/14 campaign and finished 19 points adrift of Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich, they still retain a status as one of Europe's elite sides.
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