• Soccer

Vissel Kobe Veteran Yuya Osako Named J.League MVP; Mentored Young Players As He Led Team To 1st-ever Championship

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuya Osako holds up the MVP and top scorer trophies at the J.League awards ceremony in Yokohama on Tuesday night.

YOKOHAMA — Veteran striker Yuya Osako, who helped lead Vissel Kobe to their first-ever J.League first-division championship this season, was named the Most Valuable Player for the first time on Tuesday at a gala awards ceremony at Yokohama Arena.

The 33-year-old Osako scored 22 goals in 34 matches to also share the award for top scorer with Yokohama F Marinos forward Anderson Lopes, making him the 10th player in league history to achieve the MVP-scoring double.

Osako was also among four Vissel players named to the Best XI, which included four players from Urawa Reds. It was his second time to be selected in a career that started with Kashima Antlers and included eight full seasons with three teams in Germany.

“Everyday, I continued to work hard and that made each and every day exciting,” Osako said.

Osako has served as a role model for the young players on Vissel since returning to the J.League in 2021 from Werder Bremen. “I saw many players who weren’t living up to their potential,” he said of his first impression of his teammates. “I felt part of my job was to pave the way for the young players.”

Osako struggled last season, which motivated him to pick up his game in the offseason. He hired a personal trainer and worked on his physical fitness. “I went into this season with the feeling that ‘This is it.’”

The added bulk paid off in his ability to score close to goal, and to help out in the defensive press. He freely offered advice to his young teammates, and would often spend time after practice taking extra shots.

That set an example that spurred his teammates to practice harder, which paid off in an elusive league title. “The amount that the younger players trained increased, and that made a huge difference,” Osako said.

Albirex Niigata midfielder Shunsuke Mito was named winner of the Best Young Player award. The 21-year-old scored four goals, and has been selected to Japan’s team for the Paris Olympics.