Armenia doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think about great football.
Shakhtar Donetsk don’t immediately come to mind when you think about the Champions League either, but that hasn’t stopped the Ukrainian side being mainstays in the competition over the last decade, with plenty of their players impressing over that time.
One of the latest is 24-year-old attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has caught the eye alongside the Brazilian-born talents Willian, Eduardo, Taison and Douglas Costa. Mkhitaryan’s name might not roll off the tongue as easily as theirs do, but he’s been no less impressive.
The Yerevan-born midfielder has carved out a reputation as one of European football’s great under-appreciated talents in recent seasons.
Capable of playing both in a central striking role, in one of the wide forward positions or running in from midfield, Mkhitaryan is a very modern footballer who always seems to be on the move and looking to make things happen.
Crucially, he is capable of making those things happen too, and he can boast a record of better than a goal every three games in over 90 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk, whilst his 10 strikes in 36 appearances for Armenia mean that he will soon become his young country’s all-time record goalscorer.
Mkhitaryan starred as Shakhtar qualified from the group stages of this season’s Champions League from a section that included Juventus and Chelsea, with the midfielder scoring his first and second goals in the competition in the 2-0 win over FC Nordsjaelland on Matchday 1.
Such feats have, of course, attracted the interest of plenty of European football’s heavyweights, and with Mkhitaryan himself admitting that he would be open to a move this summer (via Sky Sports) could cause a mad scramble for his signature.
With Rodgers and owners Fenway Sports Group keen to see Liverpool further develop their stylish, entertaining attacking play, Mkhitaryan would seem to fit into that mould with ease.
Apparently able to speak fluent English (via Ukrainian Football 1894), it would be easy to see the Armenian slotting into the Liverpool side alongside the creative and goalscoring talents of the likes of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
Mkhitaryan wouldn’t come cheap, of course, but he isn’t likely to command the kind of megabucks money that many of Europe’s top attacking midfielders have over the past couple of years, and whilst that will, of course, play into Liverpool’s hands, it will also see plenty of competition emerge for the attacker.
Liverpool and Rodgers will have to hope that that competition isn’t too tempting for the Armenian, but with European football of any kind looking far from certain to be taking place at Anfield next season, the Reds’ chances of recruiting him could be slipping.
Having made his name in the Champions League, Mkhitaryan won’t be too keen to step outside it for an uncertain period of time, and so the Reds are going to have to hope that it is the lure of the Premier League and a likely starting berth that point him in the direction of Anfield.
As with all of Liverpool’s potential signings, there is an awful lot that needs to go right for any deal to even be close to being completed, but Mkhitaryan would certainly add an awful lot to the squad were he to be added.
Armenia might not come to mind when you think about football, but Liverpool fans could be thinking a lot about one of their players very soon.