We all love them, don’t we? They sit right behind our ‘main’ men, providing those delicious passes that anyone would savour, adding to the game a much needed flavour. They are composed and covert. They seem to have their own modest, melancholy ways to leave you bewitched. Be it a flick of a foot, or a dip of a shoulder, everything they do manages to make us stand up off our seats (or armchairs). They are the very threads that weave our beautiful game. Who are they? Playmakers.
The way the game has progressed, the imminence of the strikers has flickered. Nobody wants to see two hefty men standing inside opponent’s penalty area, demanding the midfielders to play the ball from the middle of the park. Football has more to it. More flair, more grace, more ways. Attacking midfielders, hence, are no longer an “option”, but a necessity. The need of the hour.
Barcelona’s success over the years is completely based on the importance of attacking midfielders. Brisk passing, lethal movement and boom! You may not win anything with the kids, but with these CAMs, you sure will (pun intended). 5 years, 14 trophies and a numerous academy based midfielders. The stats speak for themselves. Bayern Münich’s last year’s heroics are impossible to imagine without their altruistic set of midfielders. Such was the extent of their sagaciousness, they made a not-so-special Mario Mandzukic look world class. Imagine what Robin van Persie would’ve done!
Real Madrid have Mesut Özil, who has been leading the assists charts for 3 consecutive seasons. Need I say more? Borussia Dortmund had a full-fledged army of attacking midfielders last season that took them to the Champions League final. Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Ikaay Gundogan and now Henrikh Mkhitaryan. But who does Manchester United have? They played a 4-4-1-1 formation for the majority of last season. Rooney was tried to be tagged as a CAM, but the attempts were failed, leaving him “angry and confused”.
All along the transfer season, the United faithful have been bragging about buying Michael Carrick a midfield partner, when the answer to all their questions is warming the benches. Yes, you know who. Shinji Kagawa was brought by Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund in 2012. He was offered the legendary number 7 shirt by Sir Alex Ferguson, but he refused. He believed in making a name for himself on his own terms. Without a shadow of a doubt, this man along with Robin van Persie was the best signing the club had made in the past 3-4 seasons or so. At 24, Kagawa is considered among the top CAM’s in the world. And rightly so.
But, we can’t see the forests for the trees, can we? Is marquee signings all we care about?
Kagawa is a very tasty player when you consider what he has in his armoury. He makes those timid yet well-crafted runs, playing instinctive one-twos with the greatest clarity of thought. You never see him caught in two minds. He always has an answer to a situation, which he delivers in the affirmative. Not to forget his exquisite touches which set him right apart from the rest. It’s like watching a ballet governed by the finest orchestras. Not to forget his goal against Norwich City. It certainly one the best close range goals you’ll ever see. Cool as, well, Scholes!
The Japanese international managed to win mere 17 starts in his first season. He scored 6 goals, including a hattrick against Norwich City, making him the first Asian player to score one in the Premier League. Why isn’t he starting? Why is he being made to do a Samir Nasri? – You have to wonder. And while I was pondering over it, another question popped-up in my mind. Had Shinji been wearing that number 7 shirt he was first offered, what would’ve his reputation been like? Certainly different, much different from what it is right now.
Having a player like Kagawa is a blessing, a blessing us United fans seem to overlook. We seem to stick with the ‘English’ ways, while the Dortmund supporters are running their “Free Shinji” campaign in full steam. United fans must be feeling the pinch, if not the guilt. The growth of Shinji Kagawa is inevitable at Manchester United, but does the club want to make use of their coveted asset? Well, that’s certainly an option, which they don’t seem consider.
The transfer window shuts come 2 September. Some fans would moan about the failed deals and hope that time heals. Others would move on and call it an end to this transfer saga, and with their hands held high, sing “All we need is Shinji Kagawa”.