Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan

World Soccer - - Biograpghy -

mat­ter into their own hands, sell­ing him for 350,000 to Me­talurh Donetsk, a Ukraine Premier League side with an Ar­me­nian owner. De­spite be­ing in a new land, and with much to learn, the 20-year-old new­comer was Me­talurh’s player of the sea­son for 2009-10 and per­formed so im­pres­sively that he was ap­pointed club cap­tain.

The foun­da­tions had been laid, the rep­u­ta­tion ce­mented, and by early Au­gust 2010 he was bound for the con­ti­nen­tal big time, head­ing across town to join Cham­pi­ons League ac­tivists Shakhtar in a 6mil­lion move.

Run­ning par­al­lel to his ex­ploits at club level was a bur­geon­ing in­ter­na­tional ca­reer. He was barely 18 when Ar­me­nia’s then-coach Ian Porter­field awarded him his first full cap in a friendly against An­dorra in Fe­bru­ary 2007 and he would

“‘Micki’ is a cour­te­ous and hum­ble char­ac­ter with tremen­dous tal­ent. He needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated for who he is”

seems to say no to. Butting heads, twist­ing arms and act­ing in al­liance with the Dort­mund club’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke to cut through the legalese, Raiola broke the ice and even­tu­ally ar­ranged a move to the Bun­desliga

A sim­i­lar sce­nario un­folded when the player left Dort­mund for Old Traf­ford this sum­mer. The Ger­man club ini­tially in­tend­ing to hold the Ar­me­nian to the fi­nal year of his con­tract un­til Raiola vo­cif­er­ously in­creased the pres­sure. “Hen­rikh is not the type who likes con­flict,“Raiola de­clared to Ger­man magazine Sport-Bild. “He leaves that to me.”

Last sea­son, Mkhi­taryan was in daz­zling form for Dort­mund, cre­at­ing no fewer than 20 Bun­desliga goals, scor­ing 11 more him­self and gen­er­ally wreak­ing havoc with his fi­nesse on the ball. But he was not al­ways the idol of the West­falen­sta­dion.

In his first two years at the Ruhr club un­der coach Jur­gen Klopp, he of­ten strug­gled to come to terms with the team’s fre­netic play­ing style. He was on the re­ceiv­ing end of no lit­tle bar­rack­ing from sup­port­ers and was plan­ning to leave at the end of the 2014-15 cam­paign.

How­ever, all that was to change when Thomas Tuchel took over from Klopp at the start of last sea­son. Not only did Tuchel’s pos­ses­sion-based game suit him bet­ter, the new coach knew ex­actly what to do to raise Mkhi­taryan’s spir­its. He im­me­di­ately made the Ar­me­nian feel wanted and worked on the player’s men­tal ap­proach, sup­pos­edly en­cour­ag­ing him to read Ti­mothy Gall­wey’s sports psy­chol­ogy clas­sic The In­ner Game of Ten­nis.

“‘Micki’ is a cour­te­ous and hum­ble char­ac­ter with tremen­dous tal­ent,” said Tuchel. “He needs to be ap­pre­ci­ated for who he is. I do have a soft spot for the way he plays. I love the vibes he gives off – the cre­ativ­ity, the sen­si­tiv­ity, the hint of the melan­cholic.”

Han­dle with care, Jose.

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