Mario Mitaj: Albania’s new star left back by Drin Gashi
Mario Mitaj may be one of the biggest winners during these Euro 2024 qualifiers so far in the Albanian national team, leaving no doubt that he is a player that big clubs should keep an eye on!
Before going deeper into the analysis, let’s just have a quick introduction to who Mario Mitaj is:
First name, Surname: Mario MITAJ
Date of birth: 06.08.2003
Current Club: FC Lokomotiv Moscow
Height: 1m80 (5’9’’)
Position: Left Back
Preferred foot: Left
Current Market Value (21.10.2023): €1,0m (Transfermarkt.de)
Mario Mitaj is a left-footed left-back who is also capable of playing as a left midfielder but is clearly favored in the left-back position due to his remarkable understanding and positioning as a defender. He is mostly featured in a four-man defense, as this style of play suits him best, allowing him to demonstrate his qualities as a left-back.
He is not known for his goals or assists, but for owning the left side of the field, especially the own half. Being more of a classical left-back, he shows great potential and has the qualities to become something special. Playing with remarkable calmness and confidence at 20 years of age, he gives you the impression that he has already 10 years of experience at the highest level, particularly when assuring possession under pressure.
When looking at his defensive attributes, his strengths include defensive positioning to intercept passes and avoid getting dribbled past, recovering endless balls, and the overall ability to avoid making errors. His intelligence and patience rise above as he manages to defend without committing fouls and is not known for receiving cards. During these qualifiers, he has only received one yellow card. His speed is at a very satisfying level too.
The consistency of his performances is another key element of his game, earning him five out of six possible full 90-minute games for the qualifiers. He is currently the fifth highest rated U21 player (+250 minutes of game time) in the EURO2021 qualifiers with an average rating of 7.17. What leads to those great performances is also his modesty in knowing his strengths and weaknesses and not attempting anything that could harm the team.
Mario Mitaj’s offensive game is rather neutral. His passing and dribbling are reliable and, from time to time, he tends to push forward and make key passes. His qualities lie rather in the defensive part of the game.
There are no outstanding weaknesses that have caught my attention.
What’s next for Mario Mitaj?
Mario Mitaj’s performances went unnoticed for quite some time until he caught everyone’s attention in his game against the Czech Republic. Sylvinho, the coach of the Albanian national team, has given him great opportunities during these qualifiers to make a name for himself and showcase his potential. Considering his young age, he has already demonstrated great qualities and maturity, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that FC Lokomotiv Moscow didn’t invest €3m last summer to transfer a young 19-year-old Albanian boy from AEK Athens to Lokomotiv by accident. The most crucial aspect for him is to stay healthy, so he doesn’t miss this pivotal stage of his career. He should continue building on his strengths and addressing areas for improvement. If he continues delivering spectacular performances, there’s nothing holding Mitaj back from playing in Europe’s top leagues such as Serie A, Bundesliga or LaLiga and maybe even the Premier League, taking into consideration that there is a lack of left backs, especially left footed ones.
Follow me on X: @dringashi98