Former Japan forward Hisato Sato, whose 161 top-flight goals are the second-most in J. League history, drew the curtain on his 21-year professional career Sunday, after playing the final minutes of JEF United Chiba’s 2-1 win over Giravanz Kitakyushu in the second division.
The 38-year-old goal poacher hit double figures in all but one of his 11 J1 seasons with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who he joined in 2005. Sato netted a career-high 22 goals and was named J1 player of the year in 2012, as he led Hiroshima to their first top-flight title.
Standing 170 centimeters, Sato excelled in a position normally held by bigger players thanks to his keen sense of positioning and instinct for goal. The left-footed striker earned 31 caps for Japan, scoring four goals.
“Being someone without any special physical ability or technique, I have all my managers and teammates to thank for allowing me to have such a long career at the top level. It was a really happy 21 years,” Sato said at a retirement ceremony following the match.
Sato began his career at JEF and had spells at Cerezo Osaka and Vegalta Sendai before winning three J1 titles at Hiroshima in 2012, 2013 and 2015, all under current Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu. Sato spent two seasons with Nagoya Grampus before returning to JEF in 2019.
Sato scored 59 goals in the J2, bringing his J-League total for both divisions to 220 goals in 560 games.
Former Cerezo Osaka, Mallorca and Kawasaki Frontale striker Yoshito Okubo, currently with J2 Tokyo Verdy, holds the J1 all-time record with 185 goals.
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