Henrikh Mkhitaryan Sweepstakes Will Define Liverpool's Offseason

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2013

DONETSK, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 23:  Henrik Mkhitaryan (L) of Shakhtar Donetsk challenges John Obi Mikel (R) of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea at the Donbass Arena on October 23, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a dynamic attacking option in the prime of his career. He's exactly the type of player Liverpool must attract in order to start moving back up the Premier League ladder, which explains why his fate is so important to the Reds.

The Shakhtar Donetsk attacking midfielder was seemingly slipping through their grasp when Phil McNulty of the BBC reported Mkhitaryan was heading to Borussia Dortmund for £21.5 million—a suspected setback after manager Brendan Rodgers had made him a top target.

Liverpool were happy to meet the asking price for Mkhitaryan but it is believed they never got the chance to hold talks with the highly rated Armenian.

Rodgers had hoped to add Mkhitaryan to summer signings Kolo Toure from Manchester City, Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas and Sevilla's Luis Alberto.

Yet, it appears Liverpool aren't completely out of the sweepstakes. ESPN passed along comments Shakhtar Donetsk chief executive Sergei Palkin made to a Ukrainian outlet in which he states no deal has been completed.

At least not yet.

"I have not talked to him. Borussia have offered us €25 million - to us, this is not enough, but we are talking to the German club. There is a possibility that we will come to an agreement in the near future."

Although Palkin admits a deal could be on the horizon, it still reopens the door for Liverpool. Rodgers should do everything in his power to convince Mkhitaryan to change course. He represents the high-impact signing Reds fans are craving.

The biggest problem Liverpool face as they attempt to build a roster capable of competing with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea is coaxing outside talent to Anfield. It's a challenge Rodgers has dealt with over the past two summers.

No longer is the simple allure of Premier League football enough, mostly because there are so many leagues around Europe with the ability to attract elite talent. And the fact the Reds missed out on European play certainly doesn't help their cause.

The trickle-down effect is clear. Liverpool struggle to attract players like Mkhitaryan, the top clubs continue to stack their rosters with fresh talent and the task the Reds face to make up the ground becomes tougher with each passing season.

That said, one marquee signing like Mkhitaryan is all it would take to turn the tide.

Not only would the 24-year-old Armenian international help the Reds in the European chase next season, but his signing would make a statement that Liverpool can still attract coveted transfer targets.

The situation illustrates why Rodgers must maintain the Mkhitaryan chase until it's officially over.

In a perfect world for Liverpool, that would result in the Dortmund talks falling through and the midfielder ending up at Anfield.

Should Liverpool fall short, then it will be time to explore secondary options. Christian Eriksen has been linked to a couple Premier League sides, including Liverpool, and would certainly be worth exploring if Mkhitaryan lands elsewhere.

But ultimately, if the Reds are forced to keep accepting secondary and tertiary transfer options, climbing the table is going to remain an uphill battle, barring terrific internal player development. That explains why the Mkhitaryan is getting so much attention.

If next season starts and the talented midfielder is playing for another club, it will be a glaring missed opportunity by Liverpool.


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