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Football: Former Japan star Shinji Kagawa buoyant upon Cerezo return

Cerezo Osaka's Shinji Kagawa poses for a photo with his No. 8 shirt on Feb. 5, 2023, during a press conference in Tokyo.(Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Japan, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United star Shinji Kagawa on Sunday promised to deliver upon his J-League return after sealing his recent move back to his first club, Cerezo Osaka.

    The playmaker joined Cerezo in 2006 and is back in the J-League for the first time since departing for Dortmund in the summer of 2010, having left Sint-Truiden in Belgium this winter.

    "I have a strong desire to develop more. I will show what I currently have on the pitch," said Kagawa, who will be wearing the same No. 8 he sported in his first Cerezo stint.

    The 33-year-old, who wore No. 10 for Japan at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, will be playing under manager Akio Kogiku, who scouted him for Cerezo when he launched his professional career.

    "I'm picturing in my head every day how I can produce new things by joining (his side)," Kagawa said.

    The winner of two German Bundesliga titles and an English Premier League trophy said the time had come to return home.

    "I had decided that I'd play in Europe until the end of the 2022 World Cup," he said. "I had (left foot) surgery then and time to think about the future while rehabbing...I felt this was the best timing."

    Kagawa, who also played for Turkey's Besiktas, Spain's Zaragoza and Greece's PAOK Thessaloniki, believes the J-League has become tougher since he left, and vowed to prove his worth.

    "I've liked watching J-League matches even after going abroad. I feel the competitiveness and intensity have increased," he said. "I want to catch people's eye with my performance."

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