Brighton are more intelligent than any other Prem club – as Arsenal could learn if they make Caicedo record signing

    IT felt like the moment when we reached ‘peak Brighton’.

    The moment when Japanese ace Kaoru Mitoma contrived an extraordinary three-touch, keepy-uppy routine, culminating in a high-kicking volley to dump holders Liverpool out of the FA Cup.

    Kaoru Mitoma is the latest star to shine after being spotted by their incredible recruitment team


    Kaoru Mitoma is the latest star to shine after being spotted by their incredible recruitment teamCredit: Getty

    It was as if Brighton, renowned for their phenomenal and imaginative player recruitment, had casually boasted: “Yeah, so, we’ve signed this winger for £2.5million, who has authored a university thesis in the art of dribbling and improvises brilliant injury-time winners in the style of a Ninja warrior martial-arts move.”

    Brighton are sixth in the Premier League and gunning for Europe on two fronts.

    In the past ten months, they have defeated Liverpool (twice), Manchester United (twice), Arsenal (twice), Chelsea and Tottenham, having made a massive transfer-market profit.

    And they have achieved all this because they are simply more intelligent than any other Premier League club. They are Brighter and Hove Albion.

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    Mitoma is the winger who genuinely deferred his entry into the Japanese J League with Kawasaki Frontale so he could study for a university degree including a thesis on dribbling.

    We’ve heard of a ‘cultured left foot’ before but never one as cultured as Mitoma’s.

    Mitoma is not just able to beat Trent Alexander-Arnold every time he runs at him, he can also write a lengthy essay telling the Liverpool full-back exactly WHY he keeps beating him.

    His is a story so very ‘Brighton’ that it actually sounds made up.

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    In a post-match interview, Mitoma claimed that his ridiculous winner was a training-ground routine.

    We assume he meant the build-up — a deep free-kick beyond the far post, sent back across goal — rather than the spectacular finish.

    But who knows when it comes to the good old Sussex by the Sea brains trust?

    Mitoma, 25, had played only two seasons in the J League and was uncapped at senior international level when Brighton signed him in 2021, because their outstanding scouts and analysts were so convinced.

    Then the winger was loaned to Belgian club Union SG — where Brighton owner Tony Bloom is the majority shareholder — before he was added to the Seagulls’ first-team squad this season, with most people not realising they had signed him in the first place.

    Several Brighton recruits have followed a similar path. Signed for a bargain price from a relatively ‘obscure’ league, loaned out for a year in Europe, then into Premier League action.

    Mitoma has six goals in his last ten games and, with his turn of pace and those well-researched dribbling skills, is already one of the most thrilling players in the English game.

    It surely won’t be long until one of the Big Seven is bashing down Bloom’s door offering to buy Mitoma for at least twenty times what the south-coast outfit paid. There are many examples of sensible risk-averse businessmen going into football club ownership and losing their minds.

    Yet Bloom is the professional high-stakes poker player and gambler who runs Brighton in a low-risk, ultra-efficient manner.

    Brighton are refusing to sell Moises Caicedo to Arsenal


    Brighton are refusing to sell Moises Caicedo to ArsenalCredit: Getty

    And one of the most remarkable aspects of their success is that when a player — or indeed a manager — leaves for a bigger club, the Seagulls keep on soaring, while the departee often struggles in more glamorous surroundings.

    Yves Bissouma at Tottenham, Neal Maupay at Everton, Marc Cucurella, and even manager Graham Potter at Chelsea, are all examples of this.

    Ecuadorian midfielder Moises Caicedo, wanted by Arsenal and Chelsea, now wants to leave for more money but might want to ponder the greenness of  distant grass.

    Because Brighton are such a good team, they make players look better. And such an intelligent club, they make people look better.

    Sporting director Dan Ashworth was head-hunted by Newcastle’s Saudi owners, while recruitment chief Paul Winstanley has joined Potter at Chelsea.

    But, if anything, Brighton have improved under the management of  Roberto De Zerbi.

    The Seagulls are the model club for anyone outside English football’s Big Seven and the recruiting ground for that Big Seven.

    While Caicedo is unlikely to get a deadline-day move, Arsenal are willing to pay £75m for the player, having already forked out £50m for Ben White and up to £26m for Leandro Trossard. But is it possible to keep losing your best players, managers and senior staff, while  continuing to thrive?

    Brighton think so because they are always one step ahead.

    Leandro Trossard was sold to Arsenal and has been replaced by Mitoma


    Leandro Trossard was sold to Arsenal and has been replaced by MitomaCredit: Getty

    They sold Trossard because they already had Mitoma to take his place.

    And their next left-winger will probably be the Ivorian Simon Adingra — tearing it up on loan at Union SG, as Mitoma did last term.

    The one after that is probably undergoing a course in cutting inside and tracking back at a university in Guatemala or Chad as we speak.

    After all, Brighton have already signed a bloke with a Scottish name and a ginger beard for £7m and seen him turn into an Argentinian World Cup winner.

    Meanwhile, 18-year-old Evan Ferguson, recruited from Irish club Bohemians, looks like the product of a scientific experiment to build an old-school centre-forward with the energetic enthusiasm of a teenager.

    And then there’s Odel Offiah — nephew of rugby league legend Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah — ready to step up at centre-half.

    So who knows what they will come up with next? And who knows whether ‘peak Brighton’ is actually still to come?


    WHEN Jurgen Klopp arrived as boss at Liverpool it was all about ‘gegenpressing’.

    After Sunday’s ugly display at Brighton, it now all seems to be about kicking opponents you can’t stop by legal means.

    And there lies the crux of Liverpool’s problems. Success based on high energy is unsustainable when a team becomes relatively old and slow.


    THERE is a perceived wisdom about the January transfer window.

    That it is a hard time to do good business and that, unless you are desperate or unless there is an opportunity for a cute value-for-money upgrade, you are better off leaving recruitment until the summer.

    Given that every manager and agent seems to concur with this point of view, it’s probably true.

    Yet Chelsea have spent more than £200million on seven players and still want an eighth — Benfica’s Enzo Fernandez — which would hike their January outlay to more than £300m and Todd Boehly’s overall transfer spend to more than half a billion in six months.

    So is Boehly a brilliant out-of-the-box thinker or is he hopelessly naive?

    I know which answer the entire footballing community would give you.

    Todd Boehly has splashed the cash since arriving at Chelsea


    Todd Boehly has splashed the cash since arriving at ChelseaCredit: AP


    ANDY CARROLL’S crazy sending-off for Reading at Old Trafford should have been a lightbulb moment for anyone looking to spice up the FA Cup.

    How about a ‘joker’ rule decreeing that each team must include one forgotten star from the past — like ex-England striker Carroll — to do something mental in each tie?


    A CLASSIC world light-heavyweight title fight on Saturday night saw Ilford’s Anthony Yarde stopped in the eighth round.

    Yarde put up an epic effort against the demonic, unbeaten, Russian-born Canadian champion Artur Beterbiev.

    It was telling, though, that the announcement of a novelty bout between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury — a ‘social-media personality’ and a reality TV star — should overshadow that elite world title fight.

    Value celebrity over quality, and a sport becomes little more than a game show.


    JONJO SHELVEY to Nottingham Forest.

    It’s a transfer so beautifully predictable that many of us just assumed it had already happened last August.

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    HERE’S a prediction for you — Harry Kane scores the winner for Tottenham against  Manchester City on Sunday and breaks Jimmy Greaves’ all-time Spurs scoring record with a goal that effectively hands the Premier League title to Arsenal.

    I mean, what could be more ‘Spursy’ than that?


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