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Marquinhos -- much more to his game than goals

11 Dec 2008(Thu)

December 10, 2008: The J.League Awards are late this season, not until December 22, so there is plenty of time for debate around the country.

Without further ado, here's my choice: Marquinhos of Kashima Antlers.

The Brazilian striker with the quick feet and quicker mind was one of Kashima's key players in 2007 when they surged past Urawa Reds to win the championship, but this time he's been the main man without question.

And yes, I would still have voted for Marquinhos had Ogasawara stayed fit, as I thought he was the team's most dominant figure even before the midfielder's knee injury at Kashiwa Reysol on September 20.

And no, I am not just voting for Marquinhos because he scored 21 goals, five more than the next best, Davi of Consadole.

Of course Marquinhos' strike rate is excellent, with those goals coming in 30 games, but it is his overall performance and influence on the team that really stands out, as it did last year.

He is a true leader on the pitch, and his experience and craft have played a huge part in the development of Tashiro in 2007 and of Koroki this season.

Just watch how he links with Koroki, and how he laid the platform for Nozawa's fantastic goal at Sapporo Dome on Saturday to clinch a 1-0 victory and their sixth league title. Admittedly, Nozawa still had a lot to do, as he controlled the ball, advanced and sent a right-foot shot whistling into the corner from 25 metres, but it was the clever pass of Marquinhos that opened up Nozawa's route to goal.

After Kashima's recent home win over Jubilo, I asked manager Oswaldo de Oliveira for his choice as J.League MVP.

He would not commit himself to one player, stressing the strong character of the group, but acknowledged that some stars shone brighter on different days. He mentioned Uchida from the pivotal victory at Oita and Iwamasa -- my MVP last season -- for his late heroics against Jubilo, but added that Marquinhos had played this role of saviour on a regular basis throughout the season.

It would be easy to give the J.League MVP award to Marquinhos on the strength of his 21 goals alone, many of which were outstanding individual efforts, but his game is about much more than that.

Marquinhos wins the day for me, ahead of teammates Uchida, Iwamasa and Aoki, whose consistently mature and driving performances in the middle of the park have cushioned the loss of Ogasawara.

ends

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