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Manchester United are reportedly scouting Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma and while the idea of a summer transfer is somewhat farfetched, it’s a deal that would tick multiple boxes for Erik ten Hag and those sat upstairs at Old Trafford. It’s been a jaw-dropping rise from the £2.5million Japanese international, who has taken the Premier League by storm this season after shining out on loan at Brighton’s sister club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium last term.
Brighton are seemingly unlikely to entertain offers for Mitoma at the end of the campaign but that is unlikely to stop rivals from chancing their arm given just how good the 25-year-old has been for the Seagulls under Roberto De Zerbi.
It’s no surprise to see United linked with the red-hot attacker despite Marcus Rashford’s incredible form as historically, the Red Devils have previously signed two of the most famous Asian players of all-time in the form of Park Ji-sung and Shinji Kagawa.
Both endured contrasting careers at Old Trafford – Park was a major hit as part of a serial-winning United side under Sir Alex Ferguson, lifting four Premier League titles and the Champions League during his stay in England.
Meanwhile, Kagawa picked up the 2012/13 Premier League title, he would spend just two seasons with the Red Devils before returning to Borussia Dortmund in 2014.
Nonetheless, both were not only fine players but also huge draws commercially in the Far East, helping expand the club’s fanbase across the globe while also bolstering United’s revenue with shirt sales.
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United strongly denied that Kagawa was signed for that very reason but ultimately, both Park and Kagawa’s profile was a welcome bonus that came hand in hand with their exciting skill-set and talent.
The same also applies to Mitoma, who is now a high-profile star and an inspiration for the next generation of Japanese footballers having made such an impressive impact in the Premier League.
There are Japan flags all around the Amex and Japanese fans have travelled in their hundreds to watch him in action for Brighton this season. Supporters in Asia now have a new hero to worship, in the same way Heung-min Son has brought a whole new wave of support to Tottenham.
In addition to his ever-growing profile, Mitoma also happens to draw comparisons to Son on the field with his speed and his ability to score and create goals.
“Mitoma has a very similar game to Tottenham’s Son Heung-min. He is not afraid to take people on, can see the pass and wants to score goals,” De Zerbi said.
“What sort of shape he’ll be in after the World Cup is anyone’s guess but, make no mistake, Brighton have a player here.”
After netting in Brighton’s 3-2 win at Wolves in November, Seagulls boss De Zerbi outlined that he sees elements of Son in Mitoma’s game.
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Brighton winger Mitoma has pace to burn and is now adding frequent goals and assists to his game, much like Son when he moved to the Premier League with Spurs in 2015.
Mitoma is also scoring the kind of goals we would associate with Son. His curler after cutting in from the left flank and bending home against Leicester, was a vintage Son strike.
The Japan international is now bolstering his numbers with several tap-ins at the back post after using his speed and acceleration to evade defenders and fill the penalty box.
He is taking his game to the next level and that’s why if United were to launch a move, it would feel like a signing that would immediately improve them.
Effectively, Mitoma is starting to feel like the air to Son’s throne in terms of being the standout star of Asian football.
If United were to go big on his arrival this summer then it would be a resounding double victory. Not only would they be requiring a top attacker but he would be a huge draw for United’s Asian fanbase, who would have a new hero to drool over.
Speaking to The Beautiful Game Podcast, Brighton CEO Paul Barber made it clear Brighton are braced for offers for Mitoma this summer, as he said: “Obviously [Mitoma is] another player that will be in the spotlight in the next transfer window. We’re ready for that and we understand that. We just hope he can have a great second half of the season.
“I think we are realistic about what can happen [in the transfer window], but we are also quite prepared to stand our ground when we need to. If we’ve got a player on a good contract or someone who we think is not right for them to leave at this moment, we can say no.
“We’re very fortunate from a financial point of view that we’re not a club that has to sell players to survive, and I think that puts us in a really good position when it comes to negotiations.”
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