Japan's first soccer superstar, Hidetoshi Nakata, was named Asian Player of the Year on Wednesday -- bringing another accolade before he tackles the World Cup finals. The 21-year-old Bellmare Hira- tsuka midfielder beat Iranian duo Khodadad Azizi, who won the 1996 award, and Karim Bagheri as well as Korean striker Choi Yong Su in the final selection. Nakata is the second Japanese after national team captain Masami Ihara in 1995 to win the Asian Foot- ball Confederation award. Nakata has taken over from veteran striker Kazuyoshi Miura as the pin-up of the J-League -- hounded by screaming young girls and outshining the nation's galaxy of baseball and sumo stars. But the Bellmare Hiratsuka midfielder rarely offers candid views to reporters. The J-League commission has chided him for refusing to sign autographs for supporters. Now, France 98 will be a chance for Nakata to prove if he is really a playmaker of global calibre or just an X-generation brat spoiled by media hype. "I want to see for myself where I stand in the world," Nakata has told one of his few favourite sportswriters. Nakata could not be present at the AFC gala dinner because he has been stricken by dermatitis and has a rash on his face and a high fever. He could also miss Japan's World Cup warmup match Sunday against fellow finalists Paraguay. Nakata sent a recorded video message saying "I'm sorry I can't be there with you tonight but I will try my best to live up to this honour at the World Cup in France."