YOKOHAMA – Jubilo Iwata striker Naohiro Takahara, who recovered from illness to top the J. League scoring charts this season, was named the J. League Player of the Year on Monday.
Takahara, who looks set for a move to German Bundesliga side Hamburg SV, scored 26 goals in 27 league appearances to lead Iwata to an unprecedented two-stage double and captured the Golden Boot award.
“Since joining Iwata and playing alongside (Masashi) Nakayama, this (Golden Boot) title is the one I’ve always wanted to win,” said Takahara.
Takahara spent an unhappy spell on loan with Argentine club Boca Juniors last season, returning home seven months into a one-year deal after scoring just one goal in seven games.
The nightmare continued when a blood clot was found in his lung in April, ending his hopes of playing for Japan at this summer’s World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea, before he struck a rich vein of form in the J. League.
“It’s fantastic to be rated so highly and I want to continue scoring goals to increase my value for the team,” Takahara said.
“I was struck down with economy class syndrome and wasn’t able to play at the World Cup. It’s something I wanted to show my parents so hopefully I can do that in Germany in four years (at the 2006 World Cup).”
Unsurprisingly, Iwata’s Masakazu Suzuki was named the Manager of the Year for the second consecutive season, while Urawa Reds defender Keisuke Tsuboi received both the Rookie of the Year and individual fair play awards.
Golden Boot winner Takahara was one of seven Iwata players, including veteran striking partner Nakayama, who were named to the J. League XI for the 2002 season.
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