Mukhtar perfect fit


NASHVILLE – The Nashville SC DNA.

It’s a term heard frequently when talking to the Nashville SC technical staff and GM Mike Jacobs about their ongoing roster build for the 2020 season. The strategy is more than just about acquiring good players. It’s about finding players that fit well together on and off the field, that the city of Nashville can cheer for and relate to, and of course, that can win.

For Jacobs, newly-acquired Designated Player Hany Mukhtar is the perfect fit for Nashville SC’s DNA.

“We want to have guys who pursue excellence in everything they do on and off the field,” said Jacobs. “I think whether it’s [Hany’s] work ethic, how he fights and competes, to his pursuit of championships, he’s demonstrated that every step along the way.”

It didn’t take long for Jacobs to shortlist Mukhtar after becoming Nashville SC’s first General Manager in 2018. He wasn’t the only MLS GM interested in Mukhtar, one of the budding stars of the Danish Superliga who has scored 16 goals and 23 assists the last two seasons with Brøndby IF. Other clubs around the world were aggressively pursuing Mukhtar before Jacobs and his team was able to seal the deal.

“Since we’ve been here, he was somebody once we started shortlisting what we were looking for in certain positions, the idea of what we want to have at a 10 or a playmaker, he hit a lot of those characteristics,” said Jacobs. “Hany fits the profile of what fans tend to expect from 10s on really good teams.”

The Nashville SC technical staff see a great complement between the midfield duo of Mukhtar and the recently acquired Aníbal Godoy, a more box-to-box midfielder known for his physical style of play. When asked about the potential partnership between the pair, Jacobs used a unique analogy to compare the duo.

“I think when you look at cohesiveness and trying to make connections in the field, the idea of someone like Aníbal as maybe a piano carrier doing the heavy lifting, where someone like Hany is more of a piano player, your creative artist,” said Jacobs. “I think their games will fit really well together.”

As Nashville continues to pile up firsts before its inaugural MLS season in 2020, Mukhtar’s acquisition is notable as the first Designated Player in Nashville SC history. Each MLS club only is allowed three DPs, players that exceed the maximum salary cap, on its roster. While plenty of talent on MLS rosters can be had outside of DPs, it’s no secret that the many of the best goalscorers and creators hit the books above the salary cap limit.

“In our league when you look at the players who are chiefly involved in scoring goals and creating goals on the best teams in the league, they are DP players. Out of the top 20 last year in goals in MLS, 19 of those 20 were either DPs or [Targeted Allocation Money] players. For us, we knew all along that for those kind of areas in the field, we were going to focus a lot of our resources. Hany is somebody who resembles what fans around the league are used to seeing of players in those roles. I think we believe he possesses special qualities that make him someone we can dedicate resources to.”

Jacobs is fully confident that fans will quickly appreciate and latch onto Mukhtar as one of their own. Someone that matches both the DNA of the city of Nashville and of the Nashville SC roster.

“He’s a universal footballer,” said Jacobs. “He plays on both sides of the ball. I think fans will love that. Hany is really special and a creative player who fights his heart out.”