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.