After leaving his post as Arsenal’s head of recruitment in February, Sven Mislintat has done the diligent thing and kept his counsel.
It’s well known that the German, nicknamed ‘Diamond Eye’, was in line for the technical director position while Ivan Gazidis was at the club but when our former CEO left for AC Milan, Raul Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham decided to implement their own plan. They initially tried to recruit Monchi from AS Roma before getting their hands on Edu, who started in the role last week.
Mislintat, who scouted the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, Mats Hummels, Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho while at Borussia Dortmund, was linked with a number of high-profile clubs but eventually accepted an offer from VfB Stuttgart.
The 46-year-old’s decision raised a few eyebrows given Stuttgart were in the process of being relegated from the Bundesliga, but he has no regrets. In fact, he’s very excited about the chance to stamp his mark on the Mercedes Benz Arena outfit.
In an interview with 11Freunde, the best bits of which have been kindly translated for us by @LGAmbrose, Sven reflected on his time at the Emirates and his reason for leaving while also sharing a couple of other tasty morsels, including info on Sanllehi’s preferred means of doing business.
After 12 years at BVB, ultimately as ‘head of professional football’, then 15 months at Arsenal as ‘head of recruitment’, are you finally on the frontline, even if it is in the second tier?
Yes. In Dortmund, I prepared many decisions for (sporting director) Michael Zorc to the extent that he just had to sign them off, but of course, the responsibility ultimately lay with him and (chief executive) Aki Watzke. At Arsenal, I was already fully responsible for transfers, as there was no sporting director. But in England it isn’t usual [for the sporting director] to sit on the bench, so you’re much less visible.
That actually sounds rather comfortable, why did you leave London?
Last summer there were leadership changes at Arsenal. It had actually been agreed that I would become technical director, so then I would be around the team on a daily basis. But the new leadership had their own agenda and other candidates. On top of that, we had different approaches.
Previously we had a strong systematic approach to transfers, a mixture of watching things live as well as quality data and video analysis – Arsenal actually owns their own data company. That meant that we acted independently, we knew about all markets and players in all positions that came into question. However, the new leadership work more strongly with what they are offered from clubs or agents through their own networks.
Instead of Barcelona or Man City, you’re now dealing with the likes of Kiel and Regensburg. Does that not feel like a step down?
Not at all. It’s the final step in my professional career, and being allowed to build a team gives me a lot of motivation. To be sporting director at a club like Stuttgart is a huge honour. I found the time at Arsenal superb but when we get 60,000 fans in the stadium at Stuttgart, it’s louder than the Emirates. How our fans supported us in the relegation play-off, despite the complete acoustic power of Union Berlin, was crazy. When there’s such a fan culture, you can’t say I’ve come to a smaller club.
Nonetheless, you’ve left the top table of the football world.
It’s just as enjoyable for me to get a Jadon Sancho from Man City or a Dan-Axel Zagadou from PSG as it is to get Atakan Karazor from Kiel or Mateo Klimowicz from Instituto Cordoba, I see huge potential to develop from them. Other than the league we are in, I see our situation similarly to Dortmund in 2006. We couldn’t buy from the top shelf then. Even with Arsenal, to start with, there was a mixed strategy. On the one hand, we signed experienced players like Sokratis and Aubameyang, who won the golden boot, and alongside them, we signed big young talents like Lucas Torreira and Mateo Guendouzi, who have enormous potential.