The Armenian is the greatest player in his country’s history and he is only 24.
The son of Hamlet Mkhitaryan, a star of Armenian football in the 1980s, his mother works for the country’s football association and his sister as a translator for UEFA. This is a player with football blood cursing through his veins. He burst onto the scene at Pyunik Yerevan, and quickly established himself in the national team set up, being capped at every level by the age of 18.
Snapped up by Metalurg Donetsk in Ukraine, Mkhitaryan settled in seamlessly, scoring goals for fun and becoming the club’s youngest ever captain. Within a year, he was on his way across the city to big spending Shakhtar to work under Mircea Lucescu. A good first season saw him net 11 goals for Shakhtar as they claimed the league title.
It was last year that the Armenian really made huge strides forward. He scored 16 goals in his first 14 games of the season, and Shakhtar won their first 15 league games of the campaign. In Europe they were hugely impressive, outplaying Juventus in Turin and qualifying with a game to spare from a group which also included then European champions Chelsea.
Mkhitaryan benefited from being played further forward, taking the place of the departed Brazilian playmaker Jadson. He stepped into his shoes brilliantly, linking up with the Brazilian talents around him to great effect. Fernandinho’s driving runs forward were key, Alex Teixeira provided trickery out wide, Willian a skilful and elusive talent who could score and Luiz Adriano a superb finisher. But bringing it all together was the brain and skill of Mkhitaryan.
Gifted with two brilliant feet, an eye for a brilliant pass and the intelligence to see things before they happen, Mkhitaryan is also ice cool in front of goal, with the kind of temperament and goalscoring ability not usually associated with an elegant playmaker. He is hardly your typical playmaker either, and is wonderfully unselfish, once squaring for a team mate to score when he was placed in a worse position, just so that he could finish the season as top scorer. Determined hard working and fast, Mkhitaryan has the qualities to play as Borussia Dortmund’s false nine.
Able to speak five languages including English and French, Mkhitaryan’s intelligence and ability means he should adapt easily to German football. He will settle in superbly with the talents of Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus around him, and can become a leading star in the Bundesliga and the Champions League in the years to come. This is one man destined for the top.