A former professional English footballer who mostly plied his trade in the lower divisions of England during his playing days, Paul Mitchell will probably be best recognised by football fans the world over for his work in the sport following his retirement as a player.
As a player, Mitchell started his football journey as a youth team player for clubs like Manchester City and Wigan Athletic before going on to make his senior team debut for the latter.
A versatile player who could adapt to playing as both a defender and a midfielder, Mitchell would go on to play for lower-division sides like Halifax Town, Swindon Town, and MK Dons.
He also enjoyed loan spells at Wrexham and Barnet before injuries forced him into a premature retirement as a player at the age of just 27.
However, it was after his retirement as a player that Mitchell would truly take the football world by storm with his work behind the scenes. Here, we have a closer look at who is Paul Mitchell - the football Sporting Director?
Who is Paul Mitchell?
After his retirement as a player, Paul Mitchell was eager to continue to work in some capacity in football and was presented the opportunity to do so by his former club MK Dons who appointed him as the Head of Recruitment in 2010.
One of his first signings at MK Dons at the time was Alan Smith, a former Premier League winner with Manchester United. Another jewel that Mitchell was credited with spotting and signing for MK Dons was former PFA Young Player of the Year Dele Alli.
Having made a name for himself through his recruitment with MK Dons, bigger clubs soon came calling for Paul Mitchell, who has stuck to his philosophy of only recruiting players under the age of 24.
Two years after his appointment by MK Dons, Southampton chose to hire him as their Head of Recruitment while they were still in the Championship - the second division of English football.
While at Southampton, Mitchell pulled off a string of great signings like Maya Yoshida, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, and Paulo Gazzaniga, to name a few.
Following his successes with the Saints, Mitchell moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2014 for whom he roped in some top-notch signings like Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, Son Heung-Min, and Dele Alli.
These signings played a key role in Spurs’ push to the UEFA Champions League final in 2019. However, Mitchell wasn’t at the club when Spurs reached the final as he had resigned from his position at the club in 2016 with 16 months’ notice.
When he became available in the market once again following his resignation, top clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United were monitoring his situation from close quarters.
However, Mitchell chose to continue his work with Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig for whom he was in charge of developing their youth squad and overseeing the entire project in general.
After being with Leipzig for a year and a half, he was promoted and became Red Bulls’ Chief Technical Director. His new role left him in charge of coordinating operations for Red Bull clubs like Red Bull New York, Reb Bull Salzburg, and Red Bull Bragantino.
Despite it being a great position, Mitchell’s desire to return to pitchside left him yearning for more.
Even though he eventually decided to vacate his position with Red Bull, it wasn’t before he had helped them spot and recruit talents like Hannes Wolf, Dani Olmo, Christopher Nkunku, Ademola Lookman, and Patrik Schick at Leipzig.
Other noteworthy players he signed while with Red Bull included Dayot Upamecano, Matheus Cunha, Nordi Mukiele, and Emile Smith Rowe on loan from Arsenal.
His next move saw him move to the French league with Ligue 1 outfit AS Monaco as their Sporting Director in 2020. While with the French giants, the success he enjoyed was limited compared to what he experienced with other clubs.
That said, he still secured the services of top talents like Vanderson, Axel Disasi, Caio Henrique, Breel Embolo, and Mohamed Camara. Despite these successful signings, Mitchell opted to end his association with the club one year prior to his contract running out in 2024.
It is reported that his desire to return to English football is a driving force behind his decision and you can rest assured that with Mitchell now back on the market, a host of clubs will be circling for his signature.
Photo credit: Alamy