Mukwelle Akale is headed to Spain. The U.S. U18 Men's National Team playmaker has finalized negotations on a precontract with Villarreal and informed a handful of other top clubs that he will not be joining them. The precontract with the La Liga side is necessary, as Akale does not turn 18 until January 18.
The U.S. U18 Men’s National Team midfielder is one of the most skilled prospects in the youth national team structure. With sublime ball control, excellent field vision, and a knack for scooting around larger opponents, Akale has become a focal point of the offense while playing as the attacking midfielder with the youth national team.
After failing to make an appearance with the U17 MNT at the 2013 CONCACAF Championship, Akale’s stock has reached an all-time high this year. The diminutive playmaker (listed as 5-foot-2 on ussoccer.com) has chalked up multiple noteworthy showings under U18 MNT head coach Javier Perez.
“I like the way we move the ball [under coach Perez],” Akale told TopDrawerSoccer.com in September following his first U18 camp. “I like how he shows us videos of the top players and teams – like Spain and Barcelona – and how we can copy them and play like them.”
Akale caught the eye of a number of top academies from France and Spain with his performance earlier this year at the Copa del Atlantico, where the U.S. played against Spain, Argentina, and the Canary Islands. The U.S. left the event without a win, but Akale was awarded the Player of the Tournament.
His inclination to turn with the ball in the middle of the field and run at defenders is a rarity among youth players. His unique qualities have eased many doubts about his ability to operate against older and larger competition.
Akale plays his club soccer for Minnesota Thunder Academy in the Development Academy. He has eight goals in seven games this season as youth national team duties and trials in Europe have cut into his availability with his local club.
Villarreal is currently seventh in La Liga with four games remaining in the season.
Update: This article was updated on May 13 to properly reflect the timeline of events.