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The afc.com's series profiling the great and good of Asian football ahead of the confederation's 60th Anniversary celebrations looks at Japanese superstar Shinji Kagawa, the inaugural AFC International Player of the Year who has returned to Borussia Dortmund where he made his name in European football, looking to rediscover the form that made him one of Asia's greatest talents.

As Shinji Kagawa put pen to paper on a four-year contract with former employers Borussia Dortmund on Sunday it marked what Japan fans hope will be a turning point in the career of the sublimely talented 27-year-old, who many believe rivals Keisuke Honda as the Samurai Blue's key attacking fulcrum as they look to defend their continental crown at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

Kagawa, who was outstanding at Qatar 2011 until a foot injury in the semi-final defeat of Korea Republic ruled him out of the extra-time victory over Australia in the final in Doha, became something of a cult hero amongst legions of fans of Die Schwarzgelben, scoring eight times in 18 matches following his move from Cerezo Osaka before the injury on international duty ended his involvement in the 2010/11 season.

He recovered in time for the 2011/12 campaign and the goal-scoring midfielder played a key role in Borussia double-winning campaign, as Jurgen Klopp's side successfully defended their league title with a Bundeliga record 81 points and won the DFB-Pokal, with Kagawa scoring one and setting up another in a 5-2 win over Bayern Munich.

The first-ever AFC International Asian Player of the Year award and a big-money move to Manchester United followed as Kagawa was given the opportunity to 'realise his dream' of playing in the English Premiership.

But despite some notable moments such as becoming the first Asian player to score a hat-trick in the EPL and picking-up a league winners-medal for the 2012/13 season, during which he scored and was named man-of-the-match in Sir Alex Ferguson's last home game before retirement, the EPL dream turned into something of a nightmare for Kagawa.

He fell out of favour with Ferguson's replacement David Moyes and his loss of form and confidence was clear during a very disappointing 2014 FIFA World Cup finals campaign, with many fans hoping that football's greatest stage would give Kagawa a chance to showcase his talents at the highest level.

Back from Brazil and with Netherlands' World Cup coach Louis van Gaal in the Manchester United hotseat Kagawa still found himself down the pecking order as the Dutchman struggled to impart his tactical philosophy on a disjointed squad before the curtain came down on his two years at Old Trafford with a return to Germany.

"I said on the day of my departure that my story with Borussia Dortmund was not completed," said Kagawa, who returns to a Borussia Dortmund side that now features Australia keeper Mitchell Langerak and Korea Republic striker Ji Dong-won.

"I wanted to realise my Premier League dream but now I'm happy to be back in Dortmund; in this great team, the unique environment. Dortmund is like a family.

"I am proud they have never forgotten me and I can belong again."
Photo: AFP

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