One thing that makes football fascinating is the diversity of people that love and play this sport. From driven individuals fighting for a better life to confident players that bet on their skills, you can meet almost countless varieties of people that call soccer their favorite sport.
However, you rarely encounter an individual who takes a scholarly approach to the game. After all, professional football players usually let go of their academic careers in favor of the Beautiful Game.
However, Kaoru Mitoma is a different kind of animal. He’s shown throughout his young career that having an academic approach to the game can also result in goals and wins for a Premier League team.
This OKBET Sports piece will detail how Mitoma broke into his unconventional rise to football relevance. We’ll also discuss his current performance for Brighton and his potential suitors.
Kaoru Mitoma was born on May 20, 1997, in Kanagawa, Japan. He grew up in Kawasaki and was naturally drawn to the Beautiful Game. Since he grew up in the area and showed a flair for the game, he joined local J1 League team Kawasaki Frontale’s Under-10 squad.
Not much is known about Mitoma’s childhood. However, his excellent footballing skills saw him quickly rise through the academy as a notable youth prospect. By age 16, his boyhood club had offered him a professional contract.
This is the part where Mitoma takes a tangent compared to other young footballers his age. He looked at how his peers were faring in the league and assessed his form at the time. He decided that he still needed time to develop his game and opted to go to college.
Kaoru Mitoma studied Physical Education at the University of Tsukuba and developed his footballing skills. During his collegiate years, he conducted his now-famous study on the art of dribbling.
The future Brighton winger attached GoPros to his and his teammates’ heads to see where they looked when dribbling the ball. He discovered that good dribblers rarely looked at the ball and focused on the players around him to steer the game’s flow in their favor.
After completing his college education, Mitoma immediately signed a professional contract with Kawasaki. He immediately played most of the team’s J1 League games, proving to be an unstoppable force from the wing.
Mitoma spectacularly finished his debut season with 13 league goals and 12 assists. He was named into the 2020 J1 League Best XI alongside most of his Kawasaki teammates after they convincingly won the 2020 season.
Kawasaki fans were treated to more of the same caliber of performances that amazed the Japanese crowd the first time around. His numbers fell off a bit (eight goals and four assists in 20 appearances), but it was still impressive for a young player with limited professional experience.
His two solid seasons at Kawasaki were enough for Brighton Hove & Albion’s scouting department to pick him up. The Premier League team bought him for a measly €3 million in the 2021 summer transfer window.
While he has the tools to succeed in the English game, he needed playing time to get accustomed to playing in Europe. He was then loaned off to Union SG of the Belgian Pro League to gain experience.
The Japanese winger kept on playing the fantastic brand of football that made him a fan favorite in his motherland. He put up solid numbers in his lone season in Belgium, notching five goals and four assists in 21 league games.
His Belgian stopover was enough for Graham Potter to keep him in the squad for the 2022/23 season. While he was deemed good enough for the English top flight, he wasn’t a fixture in Potter’s squad.
His fortunes turned for the better when Potter left the club for Chelsea. Roberto de Zerbi named him into his First XI, and the world was treated to a delightful display.
The season is still far from over, but he already has a good account for himself. He has six goals and two assists in 19 league games. With his marauding runs from the left wing, Brighton and Premier League fans can only expect better things from the 25-year-old.
Soccer fans who regularly watch Brighton play will note that Mitoma’s greatest strength is his dribbling. His undergraduate thesis undoubtedly helped him find the right approach to dribbling, making him a high-value commodity in today’s game.
He dribbles the ball upright, and his eyes constantly scour the field to find open spaces. He then uses his excellent speed and change of pace to dribble past opponents and traps that would have a lesser dribbler lose the ball.
Moreover, he’s comfortable using the inside and outside of his boots. He adds the right amount of English to his crosses and passes to ensure his teammates would be the only ones to get to the ball.
His superb dribbling skills also help him get into uncomfortable spaces inside the penalty box. He’s developed a knack for converting these chances into goals, proven by his six league goals.
Watch this informative video to learn more about Mitoma’s dribbling skill:
It’s rare for an Asian footballer to become a reliable asset in the Premier League. Given his age and skill set, it’s understandable that other clubs are interested in acquiring his services.
Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs linked with the Japanese player. The Gunners could use quality to improve their squad depth, and the winger will make Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard look over their shoulders.
Liverpool is another club that could be interested in acquiring his signature. While they have plenty of left wingers, they all have similar games. Should Mitoma be swooped up by Jurgen Klopp, he’ll provide a different dimension that will make the Reds unpredictable on the attack.
Mitoma is one of the cogs behind Brighton’s high-flying season, and his career trajectory shows that his feats weren’t flukes. With his current form and drive, there’s no reason he wouldn’t become a beloved player for the Seagulls (or whichever club sweeps him up in the summer).
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