The creative spark illuminating the Danish Superligaen
Club: Brondby (joined from Benfica in April 2017 for £1.28m)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Nationality: German (3 U21 caps)
The array of talented attack-minded midfielders that are eligible to play for Germany in the European Under-21 Championships this summer is a list to give Stefan Kuntz a serious selection headache. Along with the more familiar names of Leroy Sane, Max Meyer, Julian Brandt and Mahmoud Dahoud is that of Hany Mukhtar, who despite playing in the unfashionable Danish Superligaen, is capturing admiring glances with his performances for Brondby. But unlike his aforementioned peers who have all showcased their talents in the Champions League, he has had to forge a path away from the limelight after his promising career began to stagnate.
Born in Berlin, Mukhtar came through the youth ranks at Hertha BSC where his talents as a goalscoring midfielder quickly made him a mainstay in the national youth teams, representing Die Mannschaft’s junior sides from every level from as early as the Under-15’s. Whilst managing to make brief appearances off the bench as Hertha bounced between Germany’s top tiers, Mukhtar’s appearances at the 2014 European Under-19 Championships – where he scored the winning goal in the final against Portugal – were to announce him as another arrival off the heavily creaking German conveyor belt of talent.
But despite registering five assists in a 6-0 win against VfB Auerbach for Hertha BSC II in the Regionalliga Nordost, then first-team coach Jos Luhukay was too bound by the stresses of keeping Hertha in the Bundesliga to show faith in a prodigious young attacking talent that was already on the radars of Europe’s elite. After turning down contract talks due to being frustrated with a lack of first team football, Mukhtar swapped the Olympiastadion for Benfica’s Estadio da Luz for a fee reported to be around €500,000 during the 2015 January transfer window.
The grass wasn’t to be greener on the other side however, as Mukhtar featured for just 15 minutes as a substitute for Benfica before spending the 2015-16 season with Red Bull Salzburg in a forgettable loan-spell that yielded just one goal in 13 appearances, with the vast majority coming off the bench. With opportunities remaining limited at Benfica, another loan move to Brondby followed for the 2016-17 season, where Mukhtar teamed up with compatriot Alexander Zorniger who had just been announced as manager.
The pair were quickly on home soil as Mukhtar returned to Berlin to face Hertha in a Europa League qualifier. An assist in the home leg helped secure Hertha’s unexpected early exit from the competition and Mukhtar hasn’t looked back, registering nine goals and a further nine assists in all competitions this season for the Copenhagen club.
Deployed as the attacking tip of a midfield diamond, Mukhtar revels in a role with few defensive responsibilities which allows him to focus on the skills he possesses to unlock opposition defences and create chances for himself and his team-mates. Unlike their league and city rivals FC Copenhagen, who play a direct brand of football that relies on the physicality of their centre forwards, Mukhtar can rely on the base of his diamond to constantly feed his desire for the ball. Rodolph Austin, Lebogang Phiri and Christian Norgaard all posses the ability to move the ball around to free arguably the Superliga’s most exciting attacking talent.
Blessed with electric feet that enable him to evade defenders with ease, Mukhtar possesses the genuine ability to excite and engross supporters with his dribbling technique. This part of his game however, can at times be his downfall. Mukhtar can often be found guilty of holding the ball for too long and not releasing it at the optimum opportunity, a skill that he needs to develop to match the level of his peers in the international setup.
Mukhtar also possesses a keen eye for goal, with strikes coming from all over the pitch due to his great striking technique which enables him to be a constant threat from long range. His nine goals and ten assists speak volumes for the impact his arrival has had on Brondby’s season as the look to finish comfortably in second place behind FC Copenhagen. Having made the move permanent in April for a bargain price of just £1.2m, another season of regular football in a system that brings out his precocious talents should see him continue to develop into a player capable of knocking on Joachim Löw’s door.
Jack Dowell (Football Analyst)
All Player to Watch articles are formed on analyst’s opinion rather than in-house statistics.
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