Soccer / J. League

Sanfrecce striker Sato named J. League MVP


Japan striker Hisato Sato was named the J. League’s 2012 Player of the Year on Monday, becoming the first player from Sanfrecce Hiroshima to win the award.

At the J. League Awards where he cleaned up with four honors, Sato is also only the fifth player in the league’s 20-year history to win both the MVP and the golden boot in the same season. The last to complete the double was Marquinhos with Kashima Antlers in 2008.

“I only won this award because we won the championship,” Sato said. “I’d like to thank my wonderful teammates and manager, as well as everyone else at the club who help me do what I do.”

The 30-year-old Sato — the 10th Japanese player to be named MVP — led with 22 goals, appearing in all 34 games as he helped Sanfrecce to their first league championship.

Hiroshima will make its international debut on Thursday at Yokohama in the opening match of the Club World Cup against New Zealand’s Auckland City.

“I can’t recall too many goals I created solely on my own,” Sato said. “It starts with the keeper and the defense stopping opponents and then the midfielders bringing up the ball.

“I just happen to have the last job in an assembly line so I want to thank all my teammates. We won this as a team, no buts.”

Sato — who also won the Fair Play Prize — was joined in the Best XI by teammates Shusaku Nishikawa in goal, defender Hiroki Mizumoto and midfielders Toshihiro Aoyama and Yojiro Takahagi.

Japan centurion Yasuhito Endo made the Best XI for a record 10th consecutive season although his club, Gamba Osaka, was relegated after losing 2-1 at Jubilo Iwata in the final weekend. Jubilo’s Yuichi Komano was selected in defense.

Nagoya Grampus defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka was picked for the ninth straight year, and the 2011 league MVP, Leandro Domingues of Kashiwa Reysol, also made the cut.

Wilson of runnersup Vegalta Sendai and Yohei Toyoda, second in the league with 19 goals for surprise package Sagan Tosu, joined Sato up front to round out the team.

Hiroshima’s Hajime Moriyasu was named Manager of the Year in his first season at the helm of the Mazda-backed club.

The former Japan defender paid special tribute to his predecessor and current Urawa Reds coach Mihailo Petrovic, who laid the foundations for the team over six years.

“It’s an incredible honor to win this award from my first year as manager,” Moriyasu said. “I just want to thank all those who supported us throughout the season.

“I would also like to mention Mihailo Petrovic, now of Urawa Reds who I had the privilege of working under as an assistant. He was the one who built the base of this club over six seasons, and he deserves credit for our success.”

Kashima midfielder Gaku Shibasaki, whose brace in the final against Shimizu S-Pulse helped Antlers retain the Nabisco Cup, won Best Young Player honors.

Retired Japanese internationals Toshiya Fujita and Makoto Tanaka were recognized for their careers, marked by their central roles in Jubilo’s dynasty during the late 1990s and the early part of the century’s first decade.

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