November 27, 2009: It has been seven years since a Japanese player was the top scorer in the J.League first division; Naohiro Takahara, to be precise, in 2002.
But hopefully Ryoichi Maeda can hang on this season and join Takahara and another Jubilo hero, Masashi Nakayama (1998 and 2000), as Golden Boot winners.
I say “hopefully” because I am a big fan of Maeda's, and think he can do a good job for Japan at the World Cup in South Africa next summer.
Whether Takeshi Okada agrees is another matter, as he left Maeda out of his squad for the South Africa and Hong Kong matches earlier this month. This was surely because of Maeda's poor display against Scotland at Yokohama, where the Jubilo man started the game but always resembled “a dead man walking” as Takayuki Morimoto was waiting to come on for his eagerly awaited debut.
Maeda was the obvious candidate to give way, and it was just a matter of “when” rather than “if.”
But I really hope Okada has not written off Maeda, despite his tepid display against the Scots when, admittedly, he looked a bit lost in trying to lead the line. This was a one-off as far as I am concerned, because Maeda has many qualities that Japan will need in South Africa.
He is tall and mobile, good in the air and quick on the ground, and plays without fear or doubt in the Jubilo colours; no wonder that Shimizu S-Pulse and Gamba Osaka are rumoured to be interested in signing him for next season.
With Japan, a run of games in the national team would help his cause, and hopefully this chance will come in the East Asian Championship in Japan next February.
In the meantime, Maeda can underline his claims by finishing top scorer in J1. He has 20 from 32 appearances - none from the penalty spot - to date, and is three clear of Urawa Reds' Edmilson, so he has every chance of clinching top spot with games to come against Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vissel Kobe.
The J.League MVP is always debatable, but there is no argument when it comes to the leading scorer. In this case, statistics do not lie.