Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is making waves in Italy by leaving Serie A defenders on the floor regularly. But he’s not the only breakout dribbler this season to stun European football. In the Premier League, Kaoru Mitoma is the talk of the town, not just because of his silky feet, but also for the way he learned the trick of the trade.
Brighton and Hove Albion signed the Japanese winger from Kawasaki Frontale in 2021 after being impressed with his pace and dribbling in the J1 League. But before the rookie became the star of the league, he turned down Frontale’s initial contract offer at 19.
It is understood that after eight years in the club’s academy, Mitoma decided to reject their professional contract and instead enrolled at the University of Tsukuba.
Why did Mitoma go to University?
Recalling his thought process at the team, Mitoma told Optus Sport: “At that time, I felt that my body wasn’t fully developed yet to match up properly against the professionals. I also felt that it was important to go to university for my own career in the long term.
“Universities in Japan are of a very good standard, and I wanted to still play whilst studying, and try to be a professional footballer after graduating. My family has always stood by my career path as well. I felt that I should be the one making these decisions, so I made sure to take responsibility of career.”
But such was the youngster’s genius that while playing for the university side and studying physical education he wrote his thesis on the process of dribbling.
Talking about his research that is mentioned on Twitter every time he gets past a defender, the 25-year-old said: “Yes, and I feel that the media love to talk about this a lot too. I had to write a thesis in order to graduate university, and I knew dribbling would be something I could write about.
“I wanted to study the differences between people and who could dribble well and those that could not. In reality, I don’t think the thesis has contributed that much to how I play in the Premier League!”
Mitoma’s friendship with Tomiyasu
Mitoma isn’t the only Japanese international doing well in England’s top flight. Takehiro Tomiyasu has been a solid defensive option for Premier League leaders Arsenal. His presence in the same league has helped Mitoma adjust to a new country more comfortably.
“Having him in London is a nice reassurance even if I can’t see him much because of busy schedules. But we get along well as teammates for Japan and we both strive to play at higher levels,” the Brighton star said.
Arsenal tried to sign a marquee left-winger during the January transfer window and came close to securing Mykhailo Mudryk’s signature before Chelsea made their move. They instead signed Brighton’s Leandro Trossard. But if Arteta decides to persist with the signing of an elite left-winger in the summer, the North London giants should certainly monitor Mitoma and perhaps try to reunite him with his national teammate Tomiyasu.