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VfB Stuttgart's Sven Mislintat on Silas Wamangituka, Youssoufa Moukoko and switching from scout to sporting director


Sven Mislintat has discovered some of the Bundesliga's greatest imports in his time as a scout with Borussia Dortmund and even now as the sporting director at VfB Stuttgart with players such as Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Shinji Kagawa coming to Germany thanks to his work.

Now, at Stuttgart, Mislintat oversees much more as he builds a squad fit to battle in the Bundesliga and keep one of Germany's biggest clubs in the top-flight. The German sits down with bundesliga.com to discuss scouting, the discovery of Silas Wamangituka at Stuttgart and Youssoufa Moukoko at BVB and more...

Sven Mislintat on being a scout vs. sporting director...

Sven Mislintat: "What we had is quite similar, because I'm responsible for squad planning and recruitment as well, in both situations. I wasn't only a normal scout because I was always involved in decision-making processes. And at Arsenal, as head of recruitment, it was quite similar to be responsible for the major signings as well. So what I like [about] being a sporting director is when I don't have to fight with the executives so much if I'm totally convinced, because I'm bright enough to say that once I took my decision, it’s based on a very good analytic approach and different perspectives, and I'm self-confident enough to be brave enough to make decisions. And, of course, I have to speak with, for example, Thomas Hitzlsperger and I will involve Pellegrino as well, the manager, but I'm the guy who has to take responsibility and also has to get the blame for it if it doesn't work out. So I like this more. So it's, how should I say, it saves a lot of nerves, in discussions with people who are not able to take a close look like I can do."

on his gut vs. data...

Mislintat: "Yeah, there are several perspectives. So first of all, of course, is watching football: live in the stadium, if possible. Now, it's impossible at the moment, but it's normally part of it. And watching as much football, you can get in all systems with video archives, you know, and so today, it's possible to see every game played in professional football, so you can see every offer, every single game, second league in France, from Silas, if you would like to. So of course we do this. Yes, in today's time, not using data is, I think it's not smart. So you have to, and you know, it was also a thing in my life that I tried to introduce quite early, also in my work at Borussia Dortmund for several reasons and, founding my own data company with Match Matrix. So, this is part of analysis as well, and an important one: not the lone- standing, but it has its place in every assessment of a player. And the last thing is, or maybe another thing - even if you watch live, it's not that one guy's responsible to watch live, not only me, not only one of my scouts responsible for that area, we try to mix it so we get several perspectives of different people on the same player, and if possible, also from different age groups of scouts. That means I would like to use a 25-year-old, also I try to use the oldest one in my department, maybe older than 60, because it's different generations, we see different things, we speak differently with different codes about football, I would like to have their opinions as well. And then we can start discussions between the people who watch them live, or on TV. And also we have a discussion between the different perspectives: data, live scouting, and qualitative video analysis. And on top of it, we will have always personal talks, discussions and everything we can find out about their normal life, and we are interested in the people as well - its people business as well, it’s not only the analytics behind."

Watch: Stuttgart put five past Mislintat's former side Dortmund this season

on Silas Wamangituka...

Mislintat: "It's a deep analysis. So yes, of course, he just scored 11. But the team in total scored only 33, you know? Maybe they came fourth, but with the style of play sitting deep, counter attack, and not a lot of ball possession. I think I can't remember exactly, but I think it was something like 33 goals scored, and 22 goals against you know, and if you score 11, and you are involved in some assists as well, it's a quite good percentage to be part of your scoring machine, you know? And then you see his physical level, and the last thing, one of the most important things is to get in touch with him, to discuss a project with him, to look into his eyes and to see what kind of character he is. And if you put this into account, see this is a bargain because he's a great character, he's humble, hungry for success, he would like to improve his game every day, and with this kind of energy he puts into the team and also into the pitch if he plays. I think it was, in the end, doing all these assessments and taking all of these perspectives into account, an easy decision."

on Wamangituka's quality...

Mislintat: "As I said, massive engine, extremely fast, strong, and very important [is] his mentality and his attitude to learn every single day. You see it already in how he behaves defensively. You know, he started as a striker, playing counter-attack, he was just a one-man show in several games there. And he is involved: he played very often at right wing-back, right-wing, he can play number nine as well. But as a right-winger, he has to deal also with a lot of defensive work and load, and how he adapted to that in the 18 months, it's incredible. This is part of his mindset, and this is beneath all the qualities I decided, and everybody can see in the stadium, this is special, this is a special thing in Silas, but also in some of the other guys, I would like to mention. You know, normally I have to call everyone now, but let's say Tanguy Coulibaly, Mateo Klimowicz, Darko Churlinov, Roberto Massimo, these young lads behind them never stop working, being humble and hungry. So it's fun to see them."

on Wamangituka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Mislintat: "Yes, especially in the way - there are some differences between them, of course, but also many, many similar things. So, for example, Auba started as a No.9, not as a winger, and also on the level at Milan that he was brought in, more or less with his brother together. And his brother was the main target those days, and he was very hungry to become successful, and at the end, he became even more successful than his brother. And when he started his career, he worked quite hard, and even if Auba has a bit more glamour and everything, but at the end, he's a very smart, cool character, perfect for the young lads today. He's an example in the dressing room: he's never injured, never complaining about any kinds of things. Yes, he likes art and nice cars and so on, but it's also part of his socialisation. His father was a player, defensive midfielder, playing for the national team of Gabon, hard worker and Auba got this attitude. And he has learned quite a lot also from Jürgen Klopp in working defensively. If they adopt this and they are able to do this, then they will become big, big stars in football with their qualities and their mindsets. And this is what Silas did as well, and Rino did a fantastic job teaching him defensive behaviour, and also making him better in close contact and so on. It helps him quite a lot. There are some differences: Auba is more of a killer. He always smells the right position to score from the beginning on. So he started, first game for Dortmund, scoring three in Augsburg in his first game. So he has this gut feeling to find always his position. But to be honest, he hasn't [been a] hit at the age of 19 or 20 like Silas. So it started later and Silas has become better and better and improved quite a lot also in that, as you see in the scoring table."

on Wamangituka's character

Mislintat: "Auba in the dressing room is not so extroverted. Like it looks like sometimes if you see his dresses, you know, or how he dresses. So, yes, Silas is like I said, he is quieter but very focused, he listens, he learns a lot, he knows exactly what he is. He's aggressive, in a way it's perfect: in the duels, he is aggressive, after the duels, not anymore. He got really hard tackles this season so far, and of course, because he's quick and dangerous, and they try to avoid problems he can cause. As I said, you're right, he's more introverted, but that doesn't mean that he is not a winner - he is a winner. Because if you see his career already what he has done so far, when he started in France coming from Africa, in the fifth league, so immediately going to the second league and then next steps in Bundesliga 2, and now in the Bundesliga, you see, what's possible with this kid."

on Wamangituka coping with physicality...

Mislintat: "No, for many people coming from abroad, it's not the physical level in the games – but it’s in the training that a lot of people coming from abroad have to adapt to. It's not a single problem, not a problem, but something they have to adapt to. It's not only for French guys, but it's also for other guys as well. So the intensity in training is quite high. And it's good and bad: bad because we are tired, and there will be times after three months, four months, five months, they will drop a bit the performance level, you know. But afterwards, once they adapt, then there is potential, and this is exactly what you see in Silas. So today, it’s not a problem for him to run 90 minutes up and down as a wingback. When he started playing wing-back, of course, it was a problem, because he was a striker, he has to fight for the long balls, he was only involved in the last third, he didn’t have to work so much defensively. So, of course, you have to adapt. This is the positional adaptation, but also adaptation to normal training sessions. Once they go through it, the process from potential to quality starts."

on Wamangituka's improvement this season...

Mislintat: "Yes, yes, of course. One part is his development. The second one is the team's development. The third one is, they are some games where we are not favourites: we don't have 60-65 percent possession, there are not so many pockets you have to leave, you have to go out of pressure, you have more space. And if you have him on the open field it's like with Auba, then it's - you don't want to be a central defender, you know, it's not nice to defend him in one against one with an open field. In Bundesliga 2, it was quite often where we have 60-65 percent ball possession, teams sitting quite deep, defending quite narrow to each other, back four, midfield four or whatever formation was, five, four, whatever. So not a lot of space. And of course, less space doesn't suit his strength so much compared to an open field. And this is part of his process as well, because now in the Bundesliga, we will have more games because we know our strength that we don't have space, but he's doing better in these situations also. So, this is again part of his development."

Watch: Silas' stunning solo effort vs. Mainz

on Wamangituka's defending...

Mislintat: "No, it's not only him. You mention him now, but I think the manager and other coaches will shout at the other guys as well if they aren't prepared to make the transition. Look, the transition in the game is one of the most important things in football, in both directions. And wing-backs are often asked to do it because they have an incredible job to do, because at the end of the day they are wingers and left or right back at the same time. And that means they have to work all the time, 90 minutes, in both directions: there's never a situation that you can stop running. So that's why quite often these guys are substituted and you try to make changes, to not give them 90 minutes every single game, because you can't normally play on the highest level for the 34 games in this position. So this is a problem in this position: you need maximum engines, you need repeated sprint ability and our guys have this. So Borna [Sosa] has it, Silas has it, Tanguy Coulibaly, all the guys have got this ability, but at the end, 90 minutes, it's quite tough to deliver it. But of course, if you have most of your qualities in the offensive part of a game, you will more often speak to a player on the defensive part of his game, and this is normal. This is normal."

on Wamangituka's role...

Mislintat: "Silas's role in the team is, he's one of the players at the moment who deserves to play every single game as a starter because of his performances. And he deserves this because he delivers every week. But in the end, it's not only Silas. Silas can shine because your team is doing well because we have a strong team and a good mindset in the team and a good spirit in the team. And the other guys are very important as well. So we can mention nearly every single player: [Nicolas] Gonzalez is important offensively, [Sasa] Kalajdzic is important offensively, Coulibaly, but also the old guys like [Daniel] Didavi or [Gonzalo] Castro are important, or if you take the midfield guys like Orel Mangala or Wataru Endo, they deserve a starting place as well because of performance levels. So, it's teamwork, and Silas has an important role as a wing-back, especially offensively. But quite often we discuss the offensive players, but the defensive line - the last three, and also the two guys in front of them - are doing a fantastic job as well. So Silas is great, but he is even greater because the team is great as well."

Watch: Moukoko became the Bundesliga's youngest ever scorer this season

on Youssoufa Moukoko...

Mislintat: "No, he was so young in those days, it's the youth scouting department and the main guy was Edwin Boekamp, who came once and said 'I have a 12-year- old, we have to sign them'. I think he was 12 in those days, and he mentioned the name to me, but it's not my discovery. I think it was Boekamp and his team those days."

More on Youssoufa Moukoko...

Mislintat: "Of course, you watch youth games as a chief scout as well, and I'm involved in a way, I'm in talks about his performance, his development, his personal development, how we can help him, these were things we were doing in those days at Borussia Dortmund, but it was too far away from a professional team for me to be with him on a daily basis. It's more part of the youth department. For example, the assistant coach at the moment, Sebastian Geppert for Edin Terzic at Dortmund, was his coach in the youth teams as well. They did a fantastic job with Moukoko, especially if it was a bit difficult, with all the rumours about his age and this bullshit. They did a fantastic job developing him as a person, as a star of the team but also as part of a team. This helps him a lot. And so, his way is clear, he already ended up in the first team and he will play a lot of games for Borussia Dortmund. For sure."

More on Youssoufa Moukoko...

Mislintat: "Yeah, this is what you have to say all the time. So at the moment, he took his step now into professional football, and his first footprints are fantastic. But that doesn't mean it will continue linear to the highest level. With all young players, even some older players, there are curves in it: you will drop a bit in your performance, then you increase it again, and it's all part of development. There will be a time when maybe Moukoko will be a bit tired with so much training with the professionals, then you maybe have three matches in a week, you're travelling a lot. So of course, they adapt to it quickly - he will play, but there will be a time that it maybe drops. And then, it's very important not to say 'Oh, see, it was too early'. No, it's part of the process., you have to be relaxed with it and you can be relaxed because this kid has so much time to play football, maybe he can play for 18 or 20 more years. You see Ibrahimovic is playing this massive part in Milan’s success at the moment, with his personality, maybe this kid can play until I'm 70! So we have time for him, everyone has time for his development. On top of it, clubs are getting used to working with younger and younger players. Look at Jadon Sancho, he was 17 when he started playing at Borussia Dortmund. There are other kids who are quite young. Last season, I had Lillian Egloff in my squad, he was given his debut at the age of 17. Even this season, Momo Cisse, the first match they gave him his debut in the age of 17. So it's not that it's super, super, super special that you have a 16 or 17- year-old in the squad. Super special is his talent."

On young players and pressure...

Mislintat: "That's what I mean. So this is part of our jobs, to protect these kids, you know. It shouldn't end up in a way that everyone is expecting the special, special, special thing from the kids. I think Jadon Sancho is a bad example at the moment. So, he's not in the statistics like last season, okay, but, the main guys who are responsible to help him out are the old ones who have played 400 Bundesliga games. So, in my club it's Castro: he has to help the young lads if they are not in the best performance level, to push them, to protect them, because they have to perform every single game, not the young ones. It's normal for the younger players that stability is not the same every single week. They play, sometimes a 10 and sometimes a 3 in the range of zero to 10. Okay? And the older guys have to protect them. Quite often football is like that, in Dortmund, Erling and Jadon are responsible when you win or lose, and in Stuttgart, maybe Gonzalez and Wamangituka, but I don't agree with that. So the older ones who are more experienced have to protect them, and they are the special add-on in a game. This is, from my point of view of, how it should work. And then you don't have expectations in the young ones that are too big, and this will help them to perform in a more stable way, so you have a win-win situation."

Watch: Mislintat helped sign Lewandowski, now the FIFA World Player of the Year

On why Stuttgart is a good club for young talent...

Mislintat: "We're a club that can prepare a player perfectly for the next steps for who is who in European football, because here is everything you have in the number-one club in the league as well, like a Dortmund or a Bayern Munich. We don't play for titles, but we have pressure, it’s a very political environment, there are 60,000 people in the stadium, it's the same meaning for people who like Dortmund in the Ruhrgebiet area, it’s what Stuttgart has here. If they join this project, maybe not earning so much money, but getting more playing time, being responsible for a team to perform at a young age, it could help them quite a lot to do the next step and to be prepared to do this next step. This could explain why some careers end up in a bad way, or not in the best way - you know, it's not a bad way to end up at Real Madrid, play on loan anywhere, and to go to Arsenal, it's a nice career, and many, many people would like to change with this kid for it - but what I’m trying to explain is that there are many, many factors that can make a career successful, more successful, less successful. Sometimes it’s a single game, a breakthrough game like Lewandowski had: after missing a lot of chances when he replaced Lucas Barrios after his injury, there was one game he scored three, and afterwards he was the Lewandowski from today. So you will need these games that you say, ‘okay, I'm a very good player, I'm able to perform in every competition everywhere in the world’. And this makes something with a player: it makes him self-confident, and this is maybe the last three, four, five percent that the player needs, and he needs games. So Mangala is a great example. Mangala had a good season in 2. Bundesliga, but now he’s having a special season because he sees he's able to play at the highest level. He can play a great game at Borussia Dortmund: this 5-1 game was a benchmark game him for him so that he knows, 'hey, I can beat Borussia Dortmund, I'm one of the men who are able to beat Borussia Dortmund, I was a very important part of my team'. And this makes something with him, that helps him to perform every day, and this helps him to deal with a bad performance because he knows he can do it. And this is important, because a lot of it is in the head and in the mind-set, and three to five percent are still there, and the potential is there for many players. I tried to summarise it a bit, but it was a long explanation!"

On Robert Lewandowski...

Mislintat: "We have to say that it's also part of a group, you know. Yes, I'm linked to all the signings and I'm part of the decision-makers, but always if speak about Borussia Dortmund, we have to mention that Michael Zorc and Jürgen Klopp were the guys I worked with, and I learned quite a lot from them, and they were part of the decision making. So it's always 'I discovered this one, this one, this one', but it's a process and at the end, Michael Zorc has to sign the contracts and not Sven Mislintat in those days. Today, I can sign the contracts as well."