Mukhtar’s arrival in Nashville – Photo courtesy Nashville SC
Nashville SC is slowly but surely building its inaugural Major League Soccer roster. This morning, the Boys in Gold added a key piece. German attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar will return to his current club – the Danish Superligaen’s Brøndby IF – for the next four months, but come January, he’s all Nashville.
The first Designated Player in Nashville SC history is currently in the Music City to finish the process of preparing for the imminent transfer, but heads back to Scandinavia tomorrow to close out his career with Brøndby.
“When I came there, I was like 20, 21,” Mukhtar said. “I knew the coach [Alexander Zorniger] before: he wanted me to come to RB Leipzig, and I choose to go to Benfica in Lisbon instead. We still were in touch, and he was asking me to come to Denmark when he went to Brøndby. I think I started as a youngster and became a leader in the team. I was captain for one European game. It was a great opportunity and I’m grateful for the chance. Now it’s time for a new chapter, and it will always have a place in my heart.
“I was injured a little bit at the beginning of this season, but now I am back. I think next week, I will be on the pitch again. After the international break [Sept. 2-10], I will be back in the team.”
The 24-year old German youth international credits his time in the German system with providing his big break: he was playing in the youth setup of Hertha Berlin before a breakout game at the 2014 European U-19 Championship earned him the opportunity to try his hand in Portugal.
“In the end, Playing with Germany [youth national teams] changed my career,” he said. “In the -19 against Portgual, we were in the final, and I scored the goal. I got the offer from Benfica Lisbon. It changed my life, I would say.”
Perhaps an even bigger change is on the way.
Mukhtar’s late-January move to Nashville will be his first time playing competitively for a club outside Europe, which comes with some excitement. The young midfielder doesn’t see it coming with any sense of butterflies in his stomach, though. Instead, he sees the opportunity to play in a league that he’s been watching for longer than you might expect out of a young German.
“[Major League Soccer] is on the Zone, a channel we have in Germany,” he said. “I was watching a few games in the past, so that’s why I get in touch with MLS. I followed it a bit the last year, and it’s developed a lot. That’s great, and the league will still develop. I hope I can develop as well so it’s perfect.
“Not nervous, I would say like excited. I am happy to get the opportunity to play here. That’s the main idea what I have now. I am not nervous because I still have four months at my old club, than I will be back here in January.”
Mukhtar’s Discovery rights via the MLS rules process were held by Seattle Sounders, so Nashville will trade $100,000 in General Allocation Money to Seattle for the right to sign him in the league. It’s a worthwhile expenditure for a club that’s looking for excitement and an offensive tilt to its play.
Mukhtar is an orchestrator and goal-scorer from the central midfield who’s equally adept at distributing or putting it into the back of the net himself. In fact, he has a hard time elucidating which of those two actions he prefers – both help his team win.
“I’m a creative player, I would say,” he described. “I open space for other players. I try to make the other players look better. That’s my key strengths. I hope I score some goals, or get the assists. I don’t know what I prefer: I would say both. In the past I gave more assists than I scored goals. In the past I assisted more.
“I think for every football player, it’s important that you get a great role in the team, and to be a big part. That is what I’m trying, is to help the team and develop as fast as possible.”
However he gets it done, Mukhtar is excited for the opportunity to do his developing – both from a personal perspective and in the formative days of a new club – in Nashville.
“I was talking with the coach [Gary Smith] and sporting director [General Manager Mike Jacobs],” Mukhtar explained. “I felt very good when we were talking on facetime and the phone call in the beginning; I had a great feeling. They gave me a feeling that I will be an important part in the team, and that’s always good for the player. Therefore you play football [as a key piece], that’s why I decided to come here.
“First of all it’s a great city. The MLS is a big league, and I hope that we develop fast and achieve our goals. I’m still learning, I would say. I just had a few days here. I will learn in January a lot. I will have enough time to see the whole city and everything around.”
Come January, Nashville SC fans will have an exciting, young attacking player on their hands. It’s hard to say if their excitement can even match what Mukhtar already feels.