Soccer: How A Difficult Beginning Has Made Henrikh Mkhitaryan Into O


Mirror, UK
June 5 2013

The Armenia and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder could be off to Anfield
this summer, so why not learn more about him?

At the end of the 2011/12 season Henrik Mkhitaryan told the Ukrainian
press that they had just witnessed his best season as a professional
footballer. Shakhtar Donetsk had once again seen off the perpetually
insufficient challenge of Dynamo Kyiv and the Armenian international
had caressed, dinked and brushed his way to fourteen goals.

A year later Mkhitaryan ended the 2012/13 season with thirty goals
in all competitions, a league and cup double, and the longing glances
of much of Europe’s footballing elite. Not forgetting those caresses,
dinks and brushes.

Now, aged twenty-four, and in position as one of Europe’s brightest
talents, the midfielder is surrounded by a barrage of conflicting
reports, each with their own sprinkling of Mkhitaryan ‘quotes’
to support.

What does seem clear, despite jostling with PR-driven ‘will he,
won’t he’ that most of us got over post Cole-Gallas, is that the
time is ripe for a move, both in terms of career progression and his
exquisite ability.

A midfielder he may be, with the player himself recently asserting
that he’s ‘not a forward’, the three-time Armenian player of the year
most definitely has a large quantity of the proverbial ‘it’.

Stealthily shadowing the main striker in Shakhtar’s fluid 4-2-3-1/4-3-3
formation the midfielder fuses a combination of excellent vision,
a speedy nip around the surface and the oh so Lampard-like ability
to appear, poised, in-and-around the penalty area as the ball
drops. Differences with Lampard abound, though, with Mkhitaryan able
to slot into the false nine position so adored by today’s Borussia
Dortmund-loving hipsters.

This footballing talent has, as his history suggests, followed a
steadily linear progression from excelling as a seventeen year-old
at FC Pyunik in Armenia.

Progress, it seems, has been a byword for Mkhitaryan’s career.

A debut season in 2006, an establishment in the Pyunik first team
in 2007 and the double prize of top scorer and Armenian player of
the year in 2009. The narrative, though, doesn’t end there, with a
move to Ukraine and Metalurg Donetsk in 2009, being named the club’s
youngest ever captain in 2010 and then, shortly into the 2010/11
season, moving across Donetsk to Shakhtar for [email protected] million.

The development at Shakhtar followed the now characteristic path,
culminating in this season and goals (26) in 83.9% of his league games

That rather linear path, seemingly destined to end with a move to
Western Europe this summer, hits one jagged spot with the pleasant
tale of four months spent training with Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2003.

The beach-based trip encompassed the second time that Mkhitaryan had
spent significant time away from Armenia, moving to France a year
after his birth as his father, also a footballer, signed for French
lower-tier side Valence.

The steady and progressive footballing strides taken by Mkhitaryan
are offered in stark contrast to the debilitating blow dealt by the
death of his father, aged thirty-three, due to a brain tumour in 1996,
resulting in a move back to Yerevan.

The twenty-four year-old, multi-lingual and multi-talented, evidences
the maturity of a man well experienced and travelled, both in life and
in football. Whichever team benefits from his next travels, Liverpool
or otherwise, will have captured a player with the potential to sit
at football’s very top table.

Mkhitaryan, though, always one for progression and yearly development
refuses to be drawn on his dream move, intimating that as a child he
wasn’t too fond of Barcelona or Bayern Munich as “with age, tastes
change. And there are no reasons to name just one thing that brings
you joy”.

For more on why Mkhitaryan is closer than ever to Shakhtar , watch
our Football Spy video

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