Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Teruhito Nakagawa was named the J. League’s most valuable player Sunday after helping lead his team to their first championship in 15 years.
A day after raising the J. League trophy with his teammates at Nissan Stadium, the 27-year-old Marinos sparkplug capped off a stellar season with his first MVP award.
In a testament to Marinos’ potent attack, Nakagawa was the league’s joint top scorer alongside teammate Marcos Junior, with the pair bagging 15 goals each.
Nakagawa also tallied 9 assists after appearing in all but one of Marinos’ 34 league games this season.
A late bloomer, Nakagawa emerged with Marinos last season following loan stints in the second division with Machida Zelvia and Avispa Fukuoka.
“There were some hard times, but the effort paid off,” Nakagawa said via video link.
The midfielder, who is with the Japan national team preparing for the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in South Korea, said he had given himself an ultimatum before the season.
“If you can’t do it this year, there is no place for you,” he said.
Nakagawa was one of four players from Ange Postecoglou’s side in the league’s Best XI. He was joined by striker Junior, as well as defender Thiago Martins and midfielder Takuya Kida.
Runners-up FC Tokyo earned six selections: goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi, midfielder Kento Hashimoto, defenders Sei Muroya and Masato Morishige as well as forwards Diego Oliveira and Kensuke Nagai.
Spain and Barcelona great Andres Iniesta earned his first selection following his first full season in the Vissel Kobe midfield.
Kawasaki Frontale defensive midfielder Ao Tanaka, 21, was named best young player.
Former Australian national team coach Postecoglou was honored as the championship-winning manager, while Oita Trinita boss Tomohiro Katanosaka was named the first division’s outstanding manager after guiding the newly promoted club to a ninth-place finish.
Iniesta’s teammate, retiring Spanish striker David Villa, was recognized for the season’s best goal for his solo run against Nagoya Grampus on June 30.
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