KAORU MITOMA wrote a university thesis on how to be good at football… and now he's putting his words into practice.
The Brighton star, 26, has been nothing short of sensational since signing for the Seagulls – and has even been tipped for a Manchester United transfer.
But his impressive talents haven't come through luck and are a result of intense research and hard work.
Mitoma only turned professional aged 23 in 2020 after turning down a pro contract aged 19 in favour of going to university.
And it was during his studies that the tricky winger honed his craft and examined his rivals to get to the highest level possible.
He attended the University of Tsukuba where he studied Physical Education.
He was clearly a cut above the usual university footballer level and was picked to represent Japan at the 2017 and 2019 Universiade tournaments, as well as the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Toulon Tournament with the U23 national team.
During his final year at University, Mitoma had to complete a thesis and for him there was only one topic to write it on.
The Japanese international decided he would focus on dribbling and more importantly how to beat his man with the ball at his feet.
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Speaking to The Athletic, he explained: "It was the easiest subject for me to choose because I love football and dribbling is what I love to do.
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“There were no rules on how much to write, but I progressed with it by analysing my team-mates that were good and not-so-good dribblers and trying to find out why that was.
“I put cameras on the heads of my team-mates to study where and what they were looking at and how their opponents were looking at them.
“I learned that the good players weren’t looking at the ball. They would look ahead, trap the ball without looking down at their feet. That was the difference.
“I was one of the better dribblers at that time, but not exceptional.”
The 26-year-old also attached a Go-Pro to his own head to examine his own ability and figure out the best way to beat his man.
He discovered that putting his opponent off balance was the best way to do it and reckons that he is now twice the dribbler he was before.
He said: "I am conscious of shifting the opponent's centre of gravity. If I can move the opponent's body, I win.
“The power of my characteristic dribbling has doubled."
Mitoma later made it pro signing for J-League outfit Kawasaki Frontale before making his £3million move to Brighton in 2021.
He immediately went out on loan to Union SG in the Belgian first division before returning to the Premier League to make his debut last year.
Since then he has scored eight goals and registered a further eight assists for Brighton in just 35 Premier League appearances.
As a result he's been attracting interest from massive clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
And it's not just scouts and managers that are impressed with his ability, but he has come in to some high praise from former pros too.
After Mitoma's stunning solo goal against Wolves at the weekend Alan Shearer joked that he wished he could've seen the the goal from a GoPro point of view.
Speaking on the Rest is Football podcast, he said: "I wish he had a GoPro on him on Saturday because the way he went past those three or four defenders was sublime.
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"The balance and technique was just incredible – what a goal!"
Now one of Brighton's most important players, his £3million price tag is looking like an absolute bargain in a market full of £100million transfers.
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