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Konstantinos Mavropanos has been Stuttgart`s best player this season, starting all 9 Bundesliga matches and scoring 3 goals. Currently on loan from Arsenal FC, the German club can sign the Greek center-back next summer for just $4M, a fraction of his true value.

It would not be the first time that Arsenal lose an international top talent to a mid-table Bundesliga side, either. In 2016, the Gunners sold Serge Gnabry to Werder Bremen for $5.8M. Today, the Germany international is a Bayern Munich starter valued at $81M, according to Transfermarkt, the global soccer transfer database. It appears history is repeating itself now.

To add insult to (financial) injury, the man who lured Mavropanos from Arsenal to Stuttgart last year and negotiated the laughably low $4M exit clause with the London club is none other than Sven Mislintat. Remember him, Premier League PINC fans? The “diamond eye,” as he`s known in his native Germany, was Arsenal`s head scout from late 2017 until early 2019.

Sven Mislintat Signed Konstantinos Mavropanos Twice

It was Mislintat who brought the then 19-year-old Mavropanos to North London in 2018 and helped him settle in. A bond was forged that the young Greek defender has never forgotten. “Sven is a great sports director, he sees all players with the same eye and he protects us all with his expertise,” Mavropanos told me. “His great human nature and positive aura is really unique. He is always optimistic and he radiates that.”

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Frankly, when it comes to Mavropanos, Mislintat has plenty to be optimistic about.

Early in the second half of Stuttgart`s home game against Hoffenheim on matchday 7 of this season, Mavropanos stole the ball from his opponent on the right side of the pitch, about 50 yards from Hoffenheim´s goal. The center-back then dribbled down the right flank, taking out two opponents, before cutting inside when he reached the final third. He took out two more defenders, then slotted the ball low into the far corner of Hoffenheim`s goal with his weaker left foot. It was a highlight reel-worthy scene that showed off the Arsenal loanee`s tackling, ball control, drive, pace and shooting technique.

Arsenal Loanee Outperforms Bayern Munich Defenders

With more than a quarter of the season played, Mavropanos is the highest-scoring defender in the Bundesliga (3 goals in 9 matches). He also clocked in as 13th fastest player in the league and the 2nd fastest center-back. With a top speed of 35.08 km/h (21.8 mph), he is faster than any of Bayern Munich`s or Borussia Dortmund`s central defenders. Even more unusually, the 23-year-old brings that pace to his imposing 196 lbs and 6 feet 4 inches frame: Similar measurements to those of Liverpool´s Virgil Van Dijk and Chelsea´s Antonio Rüdiger, two of the best center-back in the world today. (Incidentally, the latter one also had his professional breakthrough at Stuttgart.)

One journalist who follows Mavropanos´development from the training ground and the stadium press box every week is Alexander Bonengel, Sky TV´s Bundesliga correspondent for the southeastern clubs of Frankfurt, Mainz and Stuttgart. Bonengel sung the defender´s praises to me: “If he can continue to play consistently at this level, he’s already one of the top defenders in the Bundesliga. What makes him so special is the combination of offensive and defensive power.”

The German journalist said that the 23-year-old´s career has been stalled by a persistent run of injuries during his time in London and during a 2020 loan spell at Nürnberg, the second-tier German club. Bonengel also added that for all his strengths, Mavropanos can still develop his technical skillset. But on balance, Bonengel said, Mavropanos is “humble, mentally strong, a good teammate and highly professional. The type of player any club would be lucky to have.”

Is Ben White Worth 17 Times As Much As Mavropanos?

Arsenal fans may never know if they would be lucky to have Mavropanos. The Greece international only made 7 Premier League appearances, 3 under Arsene Wenger and 4 under Unai Emery. This summer, Arsenal offloaded Mavropanos to Stuttgart for a second loan season, releasing him for a meagre $867,000 loan fee. At the same time, the Gunners spent $68M to buy Ben White, an English center-back, from Brighton. In 2022, Stuttgart can buy Mavropanos for the $4M clause fee that Mislintat negotiated.

Put in simple soccer economics terms, Arsenal`s budgetary decisions imply that one Ben White is worth 17 Konstantinos Mavropanos. Coming from a club that fired 55 employees (7.5% of all staff) early in the pandemic and pressured its players to accept pay cuts, this represents some eye-watering spending.

The North-Londoners, owned by American sports mogul Stan Kroenke, came 8th in the past two seasons and have not played in the Champions League in more than four years. Nevertheless, Arsenal has the fifth most generous salary structure in the Premier League today, according to 2021-2022 season data obtained by Spotrac, an American sports finance firm. 

Agent Praises Stuttgart`s American Coach Matarazzo

Konstantinos Farras, Mavropanos` agent, was evasive when I asked him about the player`s future. He said that football is a “day-to-day business” where things can change quickly. Farras added that his client likes life in Stuttgart and has many friends in the team. “They have a coach who just gets the players and the players understand him,” he said of Stuttgart`s American head coach, Pellegrino Matarazzo.

And what about the player himself, what does he want? “What I want to say is, in Stuttgart I feel like I was born here,” Mavropanos told me. I also asked the 23-year-old about his relationship with Arsenal today. I wanted to know, is there a contact person at the club who checks in on him, watches his games and gives him feedback? Mavropanos´answer was short. “There is no one.”

Source: Forbes

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