Reports: Nashville SC to add former German youth international Hany Mukhtar for inaugural MLS campaign

As first reported by BT Sport, and later confirmed by The Athletic (and independently by For Club and Country), Nashville SC will be adding Brøndby IF attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar for the 2020 season. From the BT Sport story (with an assist from Google Translate):

Sporting it will be a loss for Brøndby IF to lose the 24-year-old German, but the club will be compensated with a nice million dollars for the sale of the team’s strong 10s. Somewhere between £ 20 million and £ 23 million should be the amount that the upcoming MLS club sends across the Atlantic.

Hany Mukhtar, who has been a big hit in Brøndby IF, will be Nashville SC’s biggest acquisition. Several other MLS clubs have also been in the picture to get their fingers in the offensive midfielder.

Mukhtar was one of the Super League’s absolute best players in the 2018 season, as Brøndby IF was seconds away from securing the gold. Since then, the German and the team have dived somewhat in level, partly due to injury problems.

The other MLS team in the mix was the Seattle Sounders, to whom NSC will reportedly pay 100k in General Allocation Money for his discovery rights.

20-23 million Krone translates to about $3-3.5 million for the 24-year old. Given that he’s reportedly making around $600,000 for Brøndby, the combination of external transfer fee (which must be distributed evenly across the length of his contract) and wages means he’s likely to count against Nashville SC’s roster as a designated player, and also take up one international slot, at least in his first year with Nashville.

He’s an attacking midfielder who has yet to featured in his team’s squad this season, largely due to the foot injury mentioned in the BT Sport story. During the 2018-19 season, he scored six goals and recorded four assists for Brøndby in Superligaen play. He had two assists in eight appearances in the league’s postseason tournament, and notched a goal in four appearances in Europa League Qualifying.

Brøndby finished fourth in the Superligaen, won the playoff round (which is not to determine the champion of the league, unlike MLS), and was knocked out in the third round of Europa League playoffs (which I think count as qualifying still? There are too many European tournaments to wrap my head around).

His father is Sudanese and his mother German, and he grew up in the suburbs of Berlin. He joined Hertha’s senior team in 2012 as a 17-year old, the second-youngest debutante in the club’s history, though he ended up with only 17 appearances over three years for the Bundesliga side. He moved to Benfica in 2015, but ultimately made only one appearance for the Portuguese giants, instead going on multiple loans, first to Red Bull Salzburg (which you may recognize as the side currently led by American coach Jesse Marsch) and then to Brøndby IF, which purchased his rights for 1.5 million Euros in the 2017 summer transfer window.

Mukhtar played for German Youth National Teams from the U15 level up through U21, but his most recent appearance was in November of 2016, and he hasn’t drawn any senior team buzz that I’m aware of.

Let’s go to the highlight reel (with requisite “Euro signing horrible techno soundtrack”):

Mukhtar is an active and athletic central midfielder whose priority first and foremost is going forward. He’s able to dribble or pass from deep positions on midfield, or can make runs into the teeth of the defense to receive line-breaking passes. He always has priority one to be “how can I make the current gamestate into one where we’re aggressively attacking the defense,” which is what you want out of the No. 10 position. Very frequently, his first touch is a hopeful-seeming – but ultimately very accurate – dish to a winger well upfield to spark a fast break. Even if he first traps the ball, he hits it upfield without settling.

He doesn’t have a rocket leg (he shows potential to hit it hard, but is much more a placement type of shooter, with the ability to bend it to make for a tough save out of the opposing keeper), but is willing to hit from distance if he thinks the keeper’s out, which is another demonstration of that forward-thinking mentality. So too is his ability and desire to fire on a pressing trigger quickly, creating turnovers and unsettled offense for his team.

His first touch receiving the ball in traffic is just OK. A couple times (even on his highlight reel), he inadvertently pops the ball up into his body and has to settle it with another touch before he really controls it. However, once he does have a hold of it, his technical ability to dribble around and between defenders is extremely impressive. He can control the ball with his legs extended away from his body, allowing him to pull it back closer in traffic and execute some more elaborate fakes.

He has good vision in and around the box both with and without the ball. In the latter, he shows a little bit of right-place, right-time instinct to run onto loose balls or layoffs in the box (which will be a good fit playing underneath Daniel Ríos next season). All told… he’s not David Villa or something, but this is a DP-worthy attacking midfielder or second striker, to me.

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