New VfB Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislintat's use of technollgy in football has already reaped significant rewards. - © imago images / DeFodi
New VfB Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislintat's use of technollgy in football has already reaped significant rewards. - © imago images / DeFodi
bundesliga

Sven Mislintat: VfB Stuttgart's man with the diamond eye

You might never have seen Christian Pulisic pull on a Borussia Dortmund shirt, nor seen Robert Lewandowski score hatfuls of world-class goals for BVB and Bayern Munich, or watched Matteo Guendouzi maraude through the Arsenal midfield if it weren't for him — Stuttgart fans can now only drool at what gems Sven Mislintat will unearth for them.

Nicknamed 'Diamond Eye' — for obvious reasons — Mislintat was the man behind-the-scenes who helped build the side Jürgen Klopp took to successive Bundesliga titles between 2010 and 2012. As well as Lewandowski — picked up from Lech Poznan in 2010 — he also coaxed Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic and Jakub Blaszczykowski out of the shadows and into the glorious limelight at the Signal Iduna Park.

After his appointment as VfB Stuttgart's new sporting directorbundesliga.com brings the backroom star centre stage, lifting the lid on one of football's most talented talent-spotters.

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The 46-year-old played for a number of years in Germany's lower leagues before joining Dortmund as a scout in 2006, working closely in concert with sporting director Michael Zorc. In 2010, he was instrumental in identifying and recruiting the then unheard of 21-year-old Kagawa from Japanese club Cerezo Osaka, travelling to the Far East six times and taping hours of video for analysis.

It proved to be a career-changing moment for everyone involved. Kagawa went on to be a crucial member of Dortmund's title-winning campaigns in 2011 and 2012, a fact that helped earn him a move to Manchester United for a transfer fee that was considerably more than the relatively modest six-figure sum Dortmund had paid for him initially.

Kagawa's success also reflected well on Mislintat, as he himself admitted earlier this year in an interview with SoccerDays: "The key player for my career was Kagawa. If you can find a young player in the second division and he signs on for a small fee and then makes an impact in the Bundesliga, that's the kind of key moment everyone needs in their career."

Spotting Shinji Kagawa's potential was a career-defining moment for Sven Mislintat. - 2018 DFL

If Kagawa's signing gave greater weight to Mislintat's word, his subsequent recommendations cemented it yet further. In 2010 he also helped bring a gifted young Polish striker to Dortmund. And while it took a couple of years for Lewandowski to truly flourish in Black and Yellow, the striker is now recognised as one of the best in the world.

Mislintat's ability to recognise unpolished gems swiftly earned him a glowing reputation across Germany, as well as his nickname. Looking at the list of recruits he is credited with, it is easy to see why: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Pulisic, Hummels, Sven Bender, Subotic, Blaszczykowski and Raphael Guerreiro, to name but a few, are all — now — established international stars.

It is hardly surprising, then, that over the years clubs such as Hannover 96, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Bayern Munich were reportedly interested in recruiting him as sporting director.

Dortmund were well aware of his importance to the BVB cause, however, and clung on to him, allowing Mislintat to rise and become the club's chief scout before taking his latter position as Head of Professional Football.

Mislintat's talents are not exclusively in the scouting department, however. He also oversaw Dortmund's famed 'Footbonaut', an innovative training machine that fires balls at players from different angles and at varying speeds to help improve control, touch and reaction time.

After a decade at Dortmund, though, Mislintat decided to seek pastures new in December 2017, joining Arsenal as the English Premier League sought to exploit his expertise in preparation for the post-Arsene Wenger era.

While Aubameyang, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Henrikh Mkhitaryan followed in his footsteps in leaving Dortmund for Arsenal, his glittering reputation in German football no doubt played a key role in established talent Bernd Leno arriving in North London from Leverkusen, but Mislintat also showed his eye is as perceptive as ever.

Now established Arsenal first-teamers, Guendouzi - the French youngster signed from Lorient last summer - and Lucas Torreira - drafted in from Sampdoria - are two of the latest unheralded players who have repaid Mislintat's faith in them by doing what he needs them to do: prove him right.

Given his success-studded track record - much of which was built on a relatively shoestring budget - Stuttgart fans must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of what Mislintat can do in Swabia - he has already proven his 'Diamond Eye' is forever.