Vissel Kobe forward Yuya Osako was named the J-League's most valuable player for the first time on Tuesday after the season's joint top scorer played an instrumental role in the club winning their first top-flight title.
The 33-year-old scored 22 goals this term as he started all but two of the 34 J1 games for Kobe with his hold-up play, shooting abilities both off his feet and head, as well as an eye for a pass vital to their attack and title charge.
"I'm really pleased to be part of Vissel Kobe's wonderful history in winning the first J1 title," the former Koln and Werder Bremen man said at the award ceremony. "I'm genuinely happy to have won the J-League MVP and top scorer honor."
The accolade arrived just over a year after he was dropped from Japan's World Cup squad in Qatar despite being heavily relied upon during the Asian qualifications by Samurai Blue manager Hajime Moriyasu.
The controversial call was made after Osako kept playing to help relegation-threatened Kobe last season despite dealing with pain around his right thigh and hip. He recovered from the injury during what would have been his third straight World Cup, and this year proved he remains one of Japan's top marksmen.
"There wasn't one easy game. We've kept striving and training and were able to spend exciting days right through to the end," Osako said. "I want to thank the other 17 teams in the league who played against us."
Osako was joined by his Kobe and former Japan teammate Yoshinori Muto in the Best XI, along with Yokohama F Marinos' Anderson Lopes, the joint top scorer, in a three-man attack.
Kobe captain Hotaru Yamaguchi was picked among three-man midfield, with Kawasaki Frontale's Yasuto Wakizaka and Urawa Reds' current Japan member Atsuki Ito filling the other two spots.
Urawa keeper Shusaku Nishikawa, as well as center-backs Alexander Scholz and Marius Hoibraten, also made the best XI, reflecting their J1-best defensive record this term with 27 goals conceded. Kobe's Gotoku Sakai and Cerezo Osaka's Seiya Maikuma completed the four-man defense.
Albirex Niigata's 21-year-old winger, Shunsuke Mito, was named the Best Young Player, while FC Tokyo attacker Ryoma Watanabe won the Best Goal award for his goal against Cerezo Osaka on April 15 when he chest-controlled the ball and scored a 20-meter volley on the turn.