Borussia Dortmund and Sven Mislintat reunited: A cause for joy or concern?

Borussia Dortmund have reunited with former scout Sven Mislintat, with the German taking on the role of Squad Planner. What can Dortmund expect with this reunion, and is it a cause for elation or concern?
Excelsior Rotterdam v AFC Ajax - Dutch Eredivisie
Excelsior Rotterdam v AFC Ajax - Dutch Eredivisie / BSR Agency/GettyImages
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Dutch EredivisieExcelsior Rotterdam v Ajax Amsterdam
Dutch EredivisieExcelsior Rotterdam v Ajax Amsterdam / ANP/GettyImages

Ajax: A Cacophony of Controversies 

In the Spring of 2023, Mislintat made the jump to Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie, and based on his profile and capabilities, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Taking on the role of Director of Football, Mislintat was joining a club known for being a powerhouse when it comes to pumping out talent. Both their academy and the transfer business they had conducted in recent years had seen them make deep runs in Europe, and some of their most important players in recent years had gone for astronomical transfer fees. With Mislintat’s ability to find talent, he should have been a shoo-in for a club of Ajax’s profile. 

Mislintat’s appointment was met with controversy however, with the German never really fully settling in Amsterdam. The issues started with how the club approached the summer transfer window under his stewardship. Ajax had missed out on Champions League football, which left them with far less capital than they usually would have, which meant player sales would be necessary. Mislintat oversaw the sale of players like Jurrien Timber, Calvin Bassey, Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus, raising 160 million euros in the process. 

What resulted was Ajax signing numerous players whom Mislintat perhaps thought could help fill the void left behind by the outgoing signings, but instead sent Ajax into turmoil. The highest profile signings in question were Josip Sutalo who joined from Dinamo Zagreb for 20 million euros, Georges Mikautadze who joined from Metz for 16 million euros, Carlos Forbs who joined from Manchester City’s youth system for 14 million euros, and Chuba Apkom, who joined the club for 12.5 million euros. 

Despite this substantial layout for the above-mentioned players, Ajax has not been able to break into the upper echelons of the table, which for a club of their history and stature in the Netherlands is clearly unacceptable. They currently sit 5th in the Eredivisie at the time of writing with 49 points, 35 points adrift first-placed PSV Eindhoven, and 26 points adrift rivals Feyenoord in second place. A goal difference of 7 made up of 65 goals for and 58 against underlines just how far Ajax has fallen from being Dutch giants, and much of this is attributed to Mislintat’s recruitment.

Many of the players Mislintat brought in were either not fully accustomed to playing first team football at all or hadn’t exactly kicked on or lived up to their previously touted potential. Chuba Apkom and Carlos Forbs are perfect examples of this, with the former having been lauded as a future talent while with Arsenal, but he never really made the breakthrough with the Gunners and went on to play in Greece with PAOK as well as Middlesborough in England. Forbs, which would seem more like the typical Ajax (and Mislintat) signing, was brought in from Manchester City’s under 21s after being earmarked as a massive talent for the football world to pay attention to. While the potential is certainly still there, his 2 goals and 3 assists in the Eredivisie across 21 appearances suggest that Mislintat’s idea of having Apkom and Forbs replace a player like Mohammed Kudus was rather bold. 

The most interesting signing to take note of, and perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back for Ajax was that of Borna Sosa. Sosa, whom Mislintat worked with during his time at Stuttgart, was also very much a sought-after player for multiple seasons during his time with the Swabians. A move to Ajax for 8 million euros was given the green light by Mislintat, but it would later become known that the deal was handled by a German agency that owns shares in a private company founded by Mislintat four years prior. This company, Matchmetrics, had initially been divided evenly between four investors, one of which was Mislintat.

According to information revealed by the Dutch media, Mislintat became the company’s largest investor five weeks after joining Ajax. Because of Matchmetric’s ties to the German agency which owned a stake in its shares, the deal was seen to not have been made in good faith, but perhaps as a way for Mislintat to profit from the transfer transpiring. 

In their own statement, Ajax had stated that when Mislintat was eventually sacked, the club parting ways with their Director of Sport had nothing to do with the investigation into the Sosa deal, and perhaps it didn’t. Ajax’s place in the table and form throughout the season would have certainly been reason enough, with fans trashing the Johan Cruyff Arena after their match against Feyenoord was abandoned due to fan violence. The controversy surrounding Mislintat only added to the menagerie of issues the club was facing, and his input had clearly not helped them steer towards calmer waters.