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Leicester: Leicester City and Japan international Shinji Okazaki has expressed his delight after being presented with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian International Player of the Year 2016 award.

The livewire forward, who beat off competition from compatriot Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and Korea Republic ace Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur) to land the accolade, received his award from AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh at Leicester’s King Power Stadium ahead of Saturday's English Premier League win against Manchester City.

“It’s a huge honour to collect this award from the Asian Football Confederation,” said Okazaki, a star performer for both club and country during what proved to be an exceptional year for the former Stuttgart and Mainz favourite.

“There are some really talented players to have come from Asia and who are playing their football for some of the world’s biggest teams, so I’m thrilled to be given this.

“I know that Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo have won this award in the past so I’m really happy and I hope I can continue to achieve things with Leicester City and Japan in 2017.”

Regularly praised by manager Claudio Ranieri for his hard work and commitment to the cause, Okazaki played a pivotal role as Leicester claimed their first-ever English Premier League title at the end of the 2015-16 season, with the 30-year-old scoring five goals in 36 top-flight appearances.

Currently busy helping Leicester defend their domestic crown and a key figure in the club’s run to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, the Takarazuka-born striker also impressed for Japan as the Samurai Blue continued their bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Indeed, Okazaki’s four goals for his country have left Japan handily placed in the ongoing third round of qualifying and within touching distance of a ticket to Russia.

Photos: Plumb Images

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