Manuel Veth –
With the European Championships going on in France, it is easy to forget that the transfer window is about to open on July 1. One player, who has recently been in the headlines, is Borussia Dortmund’s Armenian winger, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who wants to leave Dortmund for Manchester United this summer.
For Borussia Dortmund, it has already been an active window, as the club has lost Mats Hummels to Bayern Munich, and Ilkay Gündogan to Manchester City. Furthermore, the club has also brought in an army of young talented players—Dortmund has already completed the transfers of the 19-year-old Ousmane Dembélé (from Stade Rennes), 22-year-old Raphaël Guerreiro (from FC Lorient), 18-year-old Emre Mor (from FC Nordsjælland), and 20-year-old Mikel Merino (from CA Osasuna).
On top of that, Borussia Dortmund has also signed Sebastian Rode from Bayern Munich and Marc Bartra from FC Barcelona. In total, Borussia Dortmund has already spent €62 million this summer, more than any other club in Europe.
Mkhitaryan to Manchester United – Will Dortmund Sell?
But with Mkhitaryan linked to Manchester United, there is a chance that Dortmund could spend even more money. That is, if Borussia decides to sell Mkhitaryan, who was one of the best players at the club last season.
In the winter, the German magazine kicker voted Mkhitaryan into the prestigious world-class category, and he managed to maintain his brilliant form during the second half of the season—and it would be no surprise if he once again gets voted into the kicker’s highest category during the summer.
Dortmund, for that reason, tried hard to extend the Armenian’s contract over the last four months. But, as reported on June 15, 2016, Mkhitaryan has chosen not to extend his contract, which is due to expire on July 1, 2017.
Hence, the next two transfer windows are Dortmund’s last chance to receive compensation from a potential transfer. But Dortmund’s CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, has stated that Mkhitaryan will remain with the club and that Dortmund are willing to lose the Armenian as a free agent next summer.
Raiola – Mkhitaryan Wants to Leave Now
Mkhitaryan’s agent, Mino Raiola, on the other hand, has since stated that Mkhitaryan wants to leave Dortmund this summer to join Manchester United. Raiola told the media: “Micki [Mkhitaryan] was promised months ago, by Borussia Dortmund’s officials, that he would be allowed to leave the club in the summer. Now Dortmund have an official offer for him.”
According to Raiola, Manchester United have offered €24 million for Mkhitaryan’s services. Dortmund, however, believe that this offer is not good enough for a player, who scored eleven goals and provided 20 assists in 31 games last season. Watzke also has told the German paper Bild: “We never promised Mkhitaryan that he could leave.”
With Dortmund already having lost two key players, the club believes that losing another key player this summer would be too risky, despite the exciting talent that has been brought in so far. The management around Watzke, sporting director, Michael Zorc, and manager, Thomas Tuchel, may have a point in not wanting to lose another key player, as the young guns around Dembélé and co. will have to adjust to Bundesliga football next season before they can be expected that they make a major impact.
Hence, hanging on to Mkhitaryan and potentially giving up on a transfer fee could make sense. In fact there is a precedent, as Borussian Dortmund hung on to striker Robert Lewandowski in the 2013-14 season despite the fact that they knew the Pole would not extend his contract—Bayern Munich then signed Lewandowski on a free transfer.
Raiola Likes to Force Transfers
The present scenario is, however, not exactly the same, as Mino Raiola, a player agent who is known to force transfers no matter what the cost, represents Mkhitaryan. Recall that it was Raiola, who facilitated the transfer of the Armenian from Shakhtar Donetsk to Borussia Dortmund in the first place.
Back in the summer of 2013, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the top scorer of the Ukrainian Premier League when he scored 26 goals—still the record for the most goals scored in a single Ukrainian Premier League season. Following his outstanding season with Shakhtar, Mkhitaryan wanted to leave Ukraine to move to a top European league.
The problem was that Mkhitaryan’s contract was owned by multiple parties. Ruben Hayrapetyan, an Armenian multi-billionaire, owner of a business empire that includes the Armenian football club Pyunik Yerevan, a former member of the Armenian parliament, and president of the Armenian Football Federation, indicated in an interview with the Armenian sports service Armsport, that Shakhtar Donetsk only held half of the transfer rights to Mkhitaryan’s contract. The other 50% were split between the Armenian talisman’s former clubs, Metalurh Donetsk and Pyunik.
Raiola Already Entangled Mkhitaryan’s Contract at Shakhtar
In spite of this tangled arrangement that involved various parties, Mkhitaryan fled from Donetsk to Vienna at the end of the 2012-2013 season, declaring he would never return to Ukraine. This reluctance was motivated by the united position of Rinat Akhmetov (Shakhtar’s owner), Oleg Mkrtchyan (a well known football investor in the post-Soviet space, who had money invested at Metalurh at the time) and Hayrapetyan, who all wanted to sell Mkhitaryan to Dagestan’s then free-spending Anzhi Makhachkala for €35 million.
Mkhitaryan hired Raiola—who is famed for his powers of negotiation and an ability to make seemingly impossible transfers materialise—and Raiola then advised Mkhitaryan to simply remain in Viennese exile. Mkhitaryan remained steadfast even after he was fined €50,000 for failing to show up at Shakhtar’s summer training camp.
Raiola then helped Watzke to untangle Mkhitaryan’s messy ownership situation, and the transfer was completed in July 2013. Watzke later admitted: “This was clearly a very difficult transfer, but we really wanted to make this happen.”
But Raiola, who was then an ally of Watzke, could now turn into Dortmund’s biggest problem, and the strategy used to wrestle Mkhitaryan free from Shakhtar Donetsk could once again surface in order to facilitate Mkhitaryan’s transfer to Manchester United.
Raiola has told the BBC: “It would be a sin to stop talking.” The agent also stated, “I am a positive guy. If I wasn’t confident of reaching some kind of conclusion, I wouldn’t try.” Raiola added: “I am very proud Manchester United want him and the talks are being held in a good atmosphere, but at the moment Dortmund are still saying no.”
Mkhitaryan to Manchester United – Will Dortmund Change Their Minds?
There is talk that Dortmund could perhaps change their mind if Manchester United were to increase their offer of €24 million. On the other hand, the Lewandowski example shows that Dortmund could very well attempt to hang on to Mkhitaryan no matter what offer comes from Manchester United.
Raiola has, so far, stated that talks between him and Dortmund are being conducted in a positive atmosphere. But it is just June, and Raiola could very well attempt to increase pressure on Borussia Dortmund once the transfer window opens next week.
Furthermore, the German paper Sport-Bild reported on Wednesday June 22 that the talks between Michael Zorc and Raiola were anything but harmonious. Raiola told Sport-Bild, “Henrikh is not the type of character, who wants conflict. He leaves that part to me…” Raiola added, “We won’t give up!”
Mkhitaryan: – I want to leave
Man UTD/Arsenal: – We want you
Dortmund: – No chance
Agent: – I am mad
Me: – It's gonna be a hot summer
— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) June 15, 2016
These statements, and the way Raiola handled Mkhitaryan’s transfer to Dortmund, indicate that Raiola would be more than willing to escalate the conflict with Dortmund in order to force a transfer to Manchester United.
Meanwhile, Mkhitaryan’s former agent, Dmitri Seluk, has told transfermarkt.de, “Raiola is in absolute control of Mkhitaryan. The fact that Mkhitaryan is happy to provoke a conflict [with Dortmund], shows how much control Raiola has over Mkhitaryan.”
Seluk’s statement, of course, has to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, the agent is understood to be part of the wider sphere of Mkrtchyan’s football circle—the same man who used to own part of Mkhitaryan’s contract. But Seluk might have a point about Raiola’s role in the transfer, as Mkhitaryan is not known as someone who looks for conflict.
What does this mean for Borussia Dortmund? It is understandable that the club wants to hang on to Mkhitaryan, but the Armenian is known to be extremely sensitive, and the transfer theatre might affect his psyche. Hence, there is no guarantee that Micki will produce the same numbers for Dortmund next season if he is forced to remain with the club. Therefore, the smart move for Watzke, Zorc, and Tuchel would be to cut their losses and sell the Armenian to Manchester United. News from England on Thursday morning suggested that United had made an improved bid, it will be interesting see whether Dortmund will accept it…
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London. His thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be available soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus