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The German star in America: The unusual path of Hani Mokhtar

The German star in America: The unusual path of Hani Mokhtar

Status: 05.11.2022 3:25 PM

Hani Mokhtar was the first German to be voted the MLS Player of the Year. Now he dreams of a call from Hansi Flick.

Hani Mokhtar enters the Nashville club stadium, accompanied by his fiancée. 30,000 spectators can seat here. It is the largest football stadium only in the United States. On this day, all seats are empty – the 27-year-old is supposed to be here for a photo. But suddenly he hears his mother’s voice over the loudspeakers – she appears with his father on the video wall and congratulates Mukhtar on his award. Family, friends and old comrades follow.

Best scorer and best player

At that moment, Mokhtar learned that he had been chosen as the best player – the “Most Valuable Player” (MVP) – in the MLS North American Football League. In a league with (big) stars such as Chiellini, Bale or Insigne, he was the first German player to receive this award. The numbers speak for themselves: with 23 goals, he is not only the top scorer and the central player in his team. Mokhtar is directly involved in 65 percent of all Nashville targets.

“I am very proud and happy at the moment to win something like this,” Mukhtar said in an interview with Sportschau. “It’s a team sport – sure, but winning an individual award like this is a very beautiful thing.” It is also clear to him that his path is special and that as many European players are in their prime as footballers are playing in the USA.

difficult decision

Mukhtar plays for all youth teams in Hertha BSC, becomes an international junior player and wins the European Under-19 Championship with the DFB team in 2014. After that, he will not be used in the Hertha first team. “I thought I deserved to play and then I had the chance that Benfica came close to me,” Mokhtar says. From today’s perspective, his decision back then was premature. Because after a short time his former U17 coach became a head coach at Hertha: Pal Dardai, who developed many young players into regular players.

Unable to find a foothold at Benfica, Mokhtar is loaned to Salzburg and eventually ends up at Brondby IF in Denmark. In 2018, he was also named as the best player in the league and also won the cup under German coach Alexander Zorniger. When he is released, Mukhtar decides not to renew his contract with Brondby and begins his MLS adventure.

A key player in a young club

Nashville SC is on the cusp of entering the MLS at this point and hasn’t played a game yet – an advantage as Mokhtar says: “I can remember exactly what the sporting director said in his second sentence: ‘Hani, we want to build the team around you – you don’t hear that in the world of European football because the teams really exist.” It’s possible in America. The fact that he gets a lot of recognition convinced him.

Nearly three years ago, Mokhtar had a proven record of success in Nashville—even if the team failed early in the playoffs this season. He has arrived and feels at home in the USA and Nashville. He’s also excited about MLS itself: “The league is on a very, very good path. I’m not saying it’s really one of the best, but we’re on a great path.”

That is why the desire to return to Europe is not particularly great – even if it does not rule it out. And there is a big dream that he has not yet been able to achieve: a match for the German national team. There has been no contact so far between the national coach and the top scorer in MLS. It will still be fine for Mokhtar after the World Cup, as he said with a smile: “No matter what time, I am available.”