Japan striker Hisato Sato has credited the development of the J-League for his inclusion in the Goal 50 after placing 47th in our yearly round-up of the world's top footballers.
After finishing the 2012 season with 22 goals, the J-League’s Most Valuable Player award and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s first league title, Sato’s fine form has continued in 2013 with 13 goals from 17 matches.
And in an exclusive interview with Goal, the Sanfrecce captain attributed his place on the list not only to his personal abilities, but to the progress that Japan's domestic football scene has made over the last 20 years.
"I am very glad to see my name on the list alongside such big names in world football," Sato told Goal. "I have not played abroad, but I think this achievement shows the growth of the J-League."
Sato’s presence has been a constant in Japanese professional football’s second decade and by scoring a hat-trick on July 10 - his second of 2013 - he completed an incredible feat of scoring 10 or more goals in 10 straight seasons.
"I'm looking forward to continuing my career at Sanfrecce Hiroshima," the Saitama-born striker promised.
Sato was joined on the Goal 50 list by Ulsan Hyundai and South Korea striker Lee Keun-Ho, who was named Asian Player of the Year in 2012 after leading his club to their first-ever Asian Champions League title.
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