Manchester United seek further popularity boost in Asia

Manchester United have reached an agreement with German champions Borussia Dortmund to sign Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa. The 23-year-old midfielder now needs to pass a medical and obtain a UK work permit, but the deal will probably be completed by the end of the month. The two clubs have not disclosed the fee but it is thought to be around 12 million pounds, with further bonuses that might take it up to 17 million.

Shinji Kagawa scored 13 goals in 31 games last season as Dortmund won both the domestic league and cup. The German club made a nice profit on the Japanese player, considering that they had bought him for just 350,000 euros in 2010 from J-League club Cerezo Osaka.

Kagawa is not a bad player at all but this could well be a marketing move for Manchester United, one that should further expand their Asian fanbase. Moreover, the only Asian in the current squad, Korean Park Ji-Sung, has not agreed on a new contract up to this point.

United have claimed their fanbase has reached 325 million people in Asia. Man United commercial director Richard Arnold has denied any suggestion players were signed to boost profits. "Our popularity in certain countries or regions may depend, at least in part, on fielding certain players from those countries or regions. We don't sign players to sell shirts. We are reliant on 25 players and they are all massive stars. We have 25 George Clooneys', he said.

"When you look at the success we've seen in that part of the world, it isn't down to any one player or person. For Manchester United, it's more than any one player. It was more than George Best, it was more than Bryan Robson, it was more than David Beckham, it was more than Cantona, than Park", Richard Arnold added.

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