Welcome Back Shinji, Hello Xabi and Mehdi

Bundesliga clubs continue to gear up for the long season, as Borussia Dortmund have announced that they have signed midfielder Shinji Kagawa to a four-year contract on a transfer from Manchester United.  On Friday, Bayern Munich announced the signing of veteran Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid just two days following the club’s announcement of the addition of Mehdi Benatia from AS Roma.

Welcome Back, Shinji

Shinji Kagawa, now 25, was a quite popular and effective player in his two seasons for Borussia Dortmund before he signed with Manchester United in 2012.  Brought to Dortmund for a measly 350,000 from Japanese club Cerezo Osaka.  The first player to sign a professional contract in Japan prior to graduating high school, Kagawa scored 55 goals in 125 matches for the Japanese club.  He made his German debut in August, 2010, and made his mark in Dortmund quickly, as he was an important cog in Jurgen Klopp’s exciting club, scoring twice in a Europa League qualifier while scoring twice against archrivals Schalke, a feat which he’d predicted before the match.  He totaled 12 goals in all competitions during his first season for Dortmund as the yellow-blacks won the Bundesliga title for the first time since the 2001/2002 campaign.

The Japanese international attracted attention from other clubs after his breakout season, and lifted his profile even higher during the 2011/2012 season at Dortmund, in which Klopp’s squad did the German double.  Kagawa scored 17 goals in 43 matches as Dortmund comfortably won the league and beat Bayern Munich in the Pokal final, with the midfielder getting Dortmund off on the right foot by scoring in the 3rd minute against the Bavarians.

Many of us were saddened when the lure of playing for Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson saw Kagawa sign with the iconic English side in the summer of 2012.  The midfielder continued his winning ways as the Red Devils topped the Premiership in SAF’s last season on the sidelines.  Kagawa contributed by scoring six times in 20 EPL matches, but the midfielder seemed to lack the impact in England that was so obvious while at Dortmund.   As Manchester United transitioned to their first new coach (its first coaching change since SAF was appointed in 1986), Kagawa became lost in the shuffle,  and did not score a goal under David Moyes’ short-lived tenure.  New United Coach Louis van Gaal seemed uninterested in Kagawa’s talents, making him available to return to Borussia Dortmund.

Not only was Kagawa highly successful on the pitch during his first stint at Dortmund, but his breakthrough in German football signaled the signing of more Japanese players by Bundesliga clubs.  While eight of those players will be suiting up to represent to the Blue Samurai during the international break in the upcoming week, Kagawa himself was not called up by new Japan Coach Javier Aguirre and will thus be able to immediately begin re-integrating himself back into the Dortmund’s squad.  With three domestic titles, one Pokal championship and an AFC Asian Cup title under his belt, BvB’s multitude of fans worldwide will be hoping that the return of the clever midfielder will push Dortmund past Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title.

Alonso Arrives in Munich

It didn’t take veteran midfielder Xabi Alonso long to find himself in Bayern Munich’s starting lineup.  With the recent injuries to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javier Martinez combined with the continued absence of Thiago Alantara. Alonso found himself in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI Saturday against Schalke only days after the club announced that they had signed Alsonso to a two-year deal.   The Bavarian giants also signed AS Roma defender Mehdi Benatia last week after inking 21 year-old midfielder Juan Bernat in July from Valencia.

Alonso, 32, began his career in 1999 with Real Sociedad.  The 6’0″ midfielder gained considerable fame upon moving to Liverpool FC in 2004, where he was both a Champions League and FA Cup winner in his five seasons in Merseyside. Alonso left for Real Madrid in August, 2009, with the capital city side shelling out 30 million pounds for his services.  While with Los Merengues, Alsonso once again was a Champions League winner and helped the club capture the 2011/2012 La Liga title.  Alsonso recently retired from the Spanish national team after winning two Euros bracketing Spain’s 2010 World Cup.

Alonso was asked how it felt to be with Bayern after jumping right into the lineup a day after arriving at the club

It feels good at the moment. I wanted to come here and to have a great experience. I’ve enjoyed La Liga and the Premier League, but it’s a big step for me now to come to the Bundesliga. The teams are great, the crowds are incredible and the speed of play suits me. So I think I’m going to have time to really enjoy this experience over the next couple of years.

Benatia, 27, signed a five-year deal with Bayern on August 27, for a transfer fee reported to be 26 million euros.  The French-born Moroccan international began his youth career at the prestigious Clairefontaine Academy whose alumni include players such as Thierry Henry, William Gallas, Louis Saha and Abou Diaby.  The 6’2″ midfielder also played in the youth systems of Guingamp and Olympique Marseille.  He turned professional with OM but went on loan to Tours and Lorient before joining Clermont Foot in 2008 on a free transfer.  Finding success in Ligue 2, Benatia left for Udinese after two seasons before signing with AS Roma last summer.  He featured in 33 matches at Roma last season, scoring five goals, on a Roma side that finished second to Juventus in the Serie A table.

Bayern Sporting Director Matthias Sammer commented

I’m delighted Mehdi has decided to join us. He’s strong, tough in the tackle and a good passer of the ball. He has all the attributes to help him succeed at FC Bayern

Benatia also has earned 31 caps for Morocco.

 

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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.

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