They don’t call him ‘Diamond Eye’ for nothing.
Sven Mislintat’s rather disappointing spell at Arsenal might have encompassed more misses than hits (Stephan Lichtsteiner anyone?), but players he brought to Borussia Dortmund during an 11-year stint as their chief scout between 2006 and 2017 reads like a ‘who’s who’ of some of the best pound-for-pound signing sin European football this side of the century.
And, now that the 50-year-old is potentially getting the old BVB band back together with Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, Liverpool fans will be hoping they become the latest club to benefit from Mislintat’s almost unrivalled ability to unearth even the roughest of diamonds (Sky Germany).
SVEN MISLINTAT’S SIX BEST SIGNINGS
ILKAY GUNDOGAN – £3 MILLION
Gundogan was hardly a household name, even in German football, when he joined Dortmund from Nurnburg as a precocious up-and-comer back in 2011. Two years later, he was scoring at Wembley in the Champions League final, while only injury kept him out of Germany’s World Cup winning squad.
Now firmly established as one of the finest central midfielders in European football following a trophy-laden spell at Manchester City, Gundogan is closing in on 70 caps for the German national team.
MATS HUMMELS – £3 MILLION
While injury denied Gundogan a place in Joachim Low’s World-conquering roster eight years ago in Brazil, the same misfortune would not befall one Mats Hummels. Arguably the best centre-back in the entire tournament, Hummels’ iron-clad partnership with Jerome Boateng kept Lionel Messi and co quiet at the Maracana while providing the platform for Mario Gotze’s stoppage-time decider.
Hummels, now in his second spell with Die Schwarzgelben, was one of Mislintat’s first signings, joining from Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich in 2008.
OUSMANE DEMBELE – £12 MILLION
It took just one season and 49 appearances for Dembele to increase his market value eight-fold. Mislintat snapped up the Rennes whizzkid for a bargain £12 million. 15 months later, Dortmund sold him to Barcelona for nearly £100 million.
Now, after putting a seemingly relentless series of niggles and knocks behind him, the electrifying, almost-elasticated Dembele is finally threatening to unleash his terrifying potential on La Liga full-backs up and down the land.
“I saw him before he even played one game at Stade Rennes,” Mislintat said.
“I’m guessing he did not even know which foot he used, because he did not have to think about that. I immediately felt that he was a very special player, like Shinji Kagawa was.”
And, speaking of Kagawa…
SHINJI KAGAWA – £300,000
Maybe Mislintat’s most inspired addition, given the minimal price and the left-field nature of his arrival, former Japan international Kagawa is a perfect example of what can be achieved with intelligent, wide-ranging recruitment and a willingness to think outside the box.
Kagawa would join Manchester United for a cool £17 million just two years after arriving in Germany as a little-known teenager from the Far East. The silky playmaker was the Robin to Robert Lewandowski’s Batman during Dortmund’s 2011 double-winning season.
“We saw him play 10 times in Japan,” Mislintat recalls. “But, after half an hour, I was convinced that no-one could keep up with him. Because, with one movement, he could change the whole game.”
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG – £10 MILLION AND £55 MILLION
One of the modern era’s most prolific marksmen could have been included on this list twice. Five years after snapping up Aubameyang from St Etienne for £10 million, scout and striker were reunited at Arsenal. Albeit for a far more princely sum.
Aubameyang would prove to be equally reliable in front of goal both at Dortmund and in North London. In 376 games for BVB and the Gunners, Aubameyang scored 233 goals.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI – £4 MILLION
A word to the wise Liverpool fans; if Mislintat arrives at Anfield and brings with him an obscure young centre-forward, it’s probably best to give him the benefit of the doubt. The centre-forward in question may just be the second coming of Robert Lewandowski.
A baby-faced Lewandowski was snapped up by Mislintat from Polish champions Lech Poznan in 2010. For a seventh of the price Liverpool would pay around the same time for a certain Andy Carroll. 12 years and over 500 club goals later, Barcelona’s evergreen frontman can genuinely claim to be the best out-and-out number nine of the entire 21st century.