• Kyodo, staff report


Joint-top scorer Leandro Damiao was named the J. League’s player of the season on Monday after the Brazilian forward helped Kawasaki Frontale to their second straight league title with 23 goals.

Damiao, who led the scoring chart alongside Celtic-linked Daizen Maeda of Yokohama F. Marinos, is the ninth player in J. League history to be named the MVP while being the top scorer.

“I’m filled with happiness. I only got the individual award thanks to my teammates,” said 32-year-old Damiao, the top scorer at the 2012 London Olympics with Brazil.

After playing in every league game last season, Damiao played 35 and missed just three games this season as he took the vice-captain role in Toru Oniki’s side.

The Best XI saw seven players picked from champion Kawasaki including all three defenders in Shogo Taniguchi, Miki Yamane and Jesiel as well as midfielders Yasuto Wakisaka and the 2018 MVP Akihiro Ienaga.

Versatile Reo Hatate, also linked with Celtic, was chosen alongside Damiao and Maeda in a three-man front line.

Spanish World Cup winner Andres Iniesta was picked after leading Vissel Kobe to their best-ever third-place finish, with Sho Inagaki of Nagoya Grampus completing the four-man midfield.

Nagoya custodian Mitch Langerak was named the best goalkeeper after the Australian helped them set the J1 record of 21 clean sheets in a single season, during which Grampus also captured its first-ever Levain Cup.

Spaniard Ricardo Rodriguez was named manager of the year after guiding Urawa Reds to a sixth-place finish in his first season at the club.

“This recognition is for all of us who are part of the @REDSOFFICIAL family and for my family for being there in the good and, particularly, the bad times,” Rodriguez tweeted after the ceremony. “All of them have to take a lot of credit.”

Ryotaro Araki of Kashima Antlers was named the young player of the year after the 19-year-old scored 10 goals, becoming only the second player in J. League history to reach double-digit figures before turning 20.

Yoichiro Kakitani’s audacious bicycle kick for Nagoya in late November, in his return to face boyhood club Cerezo Osaka, was named the goal of the year.

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