Henrikh Mkhitaryan will face off against Liverpool with Manchester United on Sunday, but were it not for a meeting with Jurgen Klopp in 2013 his career could have taken a very different path.
Mkhitaryan was on the way out at Shakhtar Donetsk, with three clubs – namely Liverpool, Tottenham and Dortmund – chasing his signature, but despite having phone calls with then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, ultimately it was Klopp’s intervention that made up his mind and he ultimately chose the Bundesliga side.
Having just lost the Champions League final and Mario Gotze (both to Bayern Munich), Klopp was looking for a new creative spark to fill the void left by the German international and was able to convince the 27-year-old of his vision.
Mkhitaryan told Mailsport:
‘I spoke two or three times on the phone to [Liverpool manager] Brendan Rodgers, he was saying he really wanted me and that I’d get to play with Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard.
‘Half of me thought I had to go there, the other half was not so confident, that the gap to the Premier League might be too big for a skinny player from the Ukrainian League.
‘Two weeks later, Jurgen Klopp broke off his holiday on an island next to Denmark to come and see me in Dortmund. I knew he had a good reputation for working with younger players and, after we met, I felt more comfortable to sign for Dortmund. I think I made the right decision.’
Mkhitaryan completed a €25m move to the Westfalenstadion soon after, and turned out to be a huge success in Germany, particularly in his final season. A campaign that saw him score 23 goals in 52 games in all competitions earned him a £27m move to Man United in the summer.
After a slow start in England, the Armenian forward has established himself as an important player in the starting eleven at Old Trafford, and is almost certain to start against his former manager on Sunday.