It takes very little play in the rod end bushings to cause a lot of slop in the lever at the top. Look at the mechanical advantage involved with this.
Secondly, if it is indeed the shifter mechanism. I expect that this would be a very common salvage yard part in Europe. I remember a post about a month ago in which a German fellow was offering to find salvage yard parts for MB's. You might do a search if you do indeed need a shifter.
Also, beware that the '86 has a totally different shifter and transmission than the later models, certainly different than the '88. The shift pattern is even different, reverse is in a different location.