Manchester United confirmed the signing of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa, for a fee reported to be around £17m after add-ons. Notice the use of the term ‘midfielder’ and not ‘star’ or another such superlative. Quite simply put, Shinji Kagawa, is not a star signing. Bear in mind that Kagawa is an excellent player, quite possibly one of the best in the Bundesliga, and on the pitch, he is just the player United have needed since Paul Scholes decided to start playing deeper. But many of their problems lie outside the greenery, and this where Kagawa will fail to fill the void, which a Hazard, Modric or Sneijder could.
Last summer, United signed David De Gea, Phil Jones, and Ashley Young. All extremely talented players, all potential superstars, but none strictly star players, or marquee signings. And one such signing is absolutely essential, if they are to return to their pedestal of power. The recently elapsed season was the first in ages when United had failed to a piece of silverware, unless of course you are an optimist at heart and the Community Shield means the world to you. All their signings performed reasonably well through the season, but none were capable of taking the side that extra mile to the top of the EPL table, much less so, clear of the group stage of the Champions League. A marquee player would have potentially given them the extra bit so essential to ‘champions’.
But primarily, the arrival of a player of that sort puts back the belief among fans that the club still has lofty ambitions, a belief that has been waning among fans ever since the dreaded Glazers took over. Where most clubs don’t shy from spending in excess of £40 million for a player they need/want, United’s most expensive player still remains Dimitar Berbatov, whom they signed for £30.75 million from Tottenham in 2008. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to estimate his signing as a failure, in the eyes of Sir Alex Ferguson at least, who’ll offload the unwanted Bulgarian this summer for a fraction of his buying price. The Eden Hazard transfer merry-go-round was another disappointment for fans after the ones they faced with Wesley Sneijder, Luka Modric, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gomez and several others. They either went elsewhere because other clubs offered more monetarily, or simply more in terms of ambitions. Very few nowadays, actually look for “history”, “culture” and all those prehistoric terms so fervently used by Liverpool fans. That is the very reason clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea lie where they currently do, and why Malaga have managed to climb to fourth in the La Liga table, after battling with relegation throughout the previous season, and the same reason why Crawley Town will be a Championship force in a few years. These clubs have time and again sent signals of intent, with their prolific expenditure, most recently Chelsea who sent shockwaves through Europe after signing Hazard and being close to tying-up real life Porto hulk, Hulk.
Reports in the British Media suggest Sir Alex will once again dive into gloomy, yet not unfamiliar Luka Modric terrain, with reports suggesting he will cost £25m to prise away from Daniel Levy’s clutches, a great deal less this year than last, owing to Tottenham’s inability to secure Champions League football this term. If they do end up successfully procuring him, then there will be reprieve, lots of it. And Wesley Sneijder still remains, an option, and may be cheaper than Modric, but at 29, may be too old for Sir Alex’s liking. But it would be a relief for everyone else, if that saga would finally end.
A marquee is much more than a good player, much more than a successful player. The Andriy Shevchenko’s, and Afonso Alves’ and Ibrahimovic’s, and Kaka’s of the world were all failures after signing for bumper prices, but their acquisition was a necessity to establish some ground-rules in an age where money rules all. But it remains to be seen, whether United have that kind of money to splurge.