Kaoru Mitoma bowled Liverpool FC out of the FA Cup. The story of the 3 million man is quite curious.
Kaoru Mitoma will probably be a household name for most Liverpool fans. Although the Reds supporters could well do without it: The Japanese shot the Reds out of the FA Cup at the end of January. He also netted against Premier League title contenders Arsenal FC and underlined that he is one of the most in-form players on the island.
If you look at the history of the 25-year-old attacker with great strengths in one-on-ones, you can see that the fact that he can dribble so well is not only due to his enormous talent, Mitoma even has a scientific work on his greatest skill written.
At the age of eleven, Mitoma began training with four-time champions Kawasaki Frontale. There he knew how to convince quickly, the coach then offered him a professional contract. However, Mitoma turned down the offer.
“I just felt like I wasn’t ready physically and wasn’t going to play in the first team right away. I thought the best step would be to get more playing time and get better,” Mitoma told The Athletic.
Mitoma studied sports science: thesis on the art of dribbling
So he started studying sports science at Tsukuba University while also developing on the soccer field. University football has an extremely good reputation in Japan and is often the stepping stone to professional football for talented players.
During his studies, Mitoma was selected to represent Japan with the U23 national team at the 2017 and 2019 Universiade, as well as the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Toulon Tournament. There, too, it quickly became clear what enormous talent today’s Brighton attacker has – a football career was becoming more and more likely.
After all, of course, he also had to write his final thesis during his studies. The topic? He chose the art of dribbling, thinking about his own skills and what makes a good dribbler.
“It was the easiest topic for me because I love football and dribbling is my favorite thing. There were no rules on how much I should write, but I progressed by analyzing my teammates who were good and not so good dribblers trying to figure out why that was,” he explained.
For the thesis: Mitoma attached cameras to the heads of his fellow players
“I put cameras on the heads of my team-mates to see where they are looking and how their opponents see them,” said the young Japanese. The result: “I found that the good players weren’t looking at the ball. They were looking forward, catching the ball without looking at their feet. That was the difference.”
In the game against Liverpool, Mitoma once again showed what a talented dribbler he is. The 25-year-old played the Liverpool defense dizzily before scoring the winner in the 92nd minute to make it 2-1 for Brighton.
However, Mitoma clarified that he was “one of the better dribblers of the time” but not “exceptional.” In his work he wrote, among other things: “I consciously try to shift the opponent’s center of gravity. If I can move the opponent’s body, I win.”
Mitoma’s development: Brighton and World Cup brought the breakthrough
Already at Kawasaki Frontale, Mitoma showed what he is capable of in the first Japanese league. But he made his big breakthrough when he moved to the island.
Brighton paid just €3m for the left winger’s services and the transfer should be a huge win for the Seagulls. Last season he was on loan at Union SG in the Belgian first division, where he scored eight goals in 29 games.
He then represented Japan at the World Cup in Qatar – and even ensured that Germany was eliminated in the preliminary round. Mitoma set up the controversial 2-1 draw for his home country, stroking the ball in the middle to Ao Tanaka just before going out. Apart from that he played big at the tournament and gathered further arguments to be used more regularly in Brighton.
He has scored four goals in seven Premier League games since the World Cup and has seven goals and two assists in 21 games so far. Did his final thesis help him with these impressive achievements? Well possible – his dribbles are still real eye-catchers.