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In the lead up to the 2013-14 season, join us as we count down the best 15 players in the A-League, as voted for by Goal and Sportal.com.au journalists and writers.

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Shinji Ono came within a whisker of claiming top spot in our countdown of the Top 15 A-League players, and few would argue against him being a deserved winner.

As it is, the 34-year-old will have to settle for second spot, which is still an impressive achievement after just one season in the competition.

Before he had even stepped onto the pitch last season, the man from Shizuoka Prefecture made a major impact on the Australian football landscape, with his move to Western Sydney Wanderers a massive boost to the credibility of the debutant franchise.

Shinji Ono
 
Club Games Goals
Western Sydney [2012-]
26
8

Funded by the governing body and a rushed replacement for the defunct Gold Coast United, the jury was well and truly out on whether or not the Wanderers would be a success after watching a ragtag band of misfits and nobodies assembling in Sydney's football-starved western suburbs. The news that 56-cap Japan international Ono had committed to the project underway at Parramatta Stadium sent out a signal, loud and clear, that Football Federation Australia and Tony Popovic's team meant business.

And while it took time for the new outfit to find their feet in the first half of the campaign, Ono looked at home in Wanderland right from the off, knitting together the fledgling side's midfield and attack and giving his team-mates the confidence to embark on their historic run to the premiership and grand final.

Strengths

Several of the A-League's better midfielders and forwards had to wait until their arrival in Australia for their quality to become apparent, including the likes of Liam Miller, Thomas Broich and Michael McGlinchey, who have found a niche in this competition.

Not so Ono, who was a ready-made elite talent, boasting a clutch of titles and individual awards from his time with Feyenoord, Urawa Reds and Japan, upon his arrival Down Under. It's not hard to see why. The 2002 Asian Footballer of the Year is the complete package. Able to play behind the strikers or deeper in midfield, his technique, passing range and decision-making are equal to the best the A-League has seen, augmented by a keen eye for a goal.

Defining moment

One of Ono's best individual displays arrived on New Year's Day 2013, when he netted twice in a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium, showing exquisite touch to bring down and juggle a long ball before directing a powerful shot past Nathan Coe to open the scoring.

He restored the Wanderers' lead with what proved to be the winner on 79 minutes, creating space on the edge of the area before curling the ball into the net from just outside the area. But for sheer wow factor, it's hard to look past Ono's acute chip over Michael Theo in the Wanderers' 2-0 semi-final win over Brisbane Roar.

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