A £23m hassle for Liverpool?

Shakhtar Donetsk’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Liverpool haven’t kept their pursuit of Henrikh Mkhitaryan a secret. For the last month Brendan Rodgers’ side have been heavily linked with the Shakhtar midfielder, until eventually the Reds agreed a £23million fee for the midfielder. Or so they thought.

Recent news in The Mirror has transpired that the Ukrainian only own a portion of Mkhitaryan’s rights. The midfielder is one of many eastern European players to be partially owned by a third party, which makes Liverpool’s transfer of the player much more complicated. Brendan Rodgers initially thought the deal was nearly done, with suggestions that the Armenian would be soon travelling to Anfield for a medical.

But now Rodgers, and managing director Ian Ayre, are having to reconsider the move for the 24-year-old. The midfielder’s complicated ownership has suddenly put Liverpool in a difficult position. Do they go through with the deal, knowing that they could be forced to pay even more than the original £23million they thought it would take to sign Mkhitaryan? Or do they back out, and go back to the drawing board?

His third party ownership is easily resolvable, as Liverpool, Shakhtar and the third party, believed to include the president of the football federation of Armenia, Ruben Hayrapetyan, could just sit down and discuss the fees needed to release the midfielder. But with so much confusion, is it really worth it?

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Yes Mkhitaryan is one of the hottest talents in Europe, and at only 24-years-old, is only expected to get better. But with all respect to the Ukrainian Premier League, it isn’t exactly the most challenging of levels in Europe. It’s currently the 8th highest ranked league on the continent, and that is mainly due to Shakhtar’s and Dynamo Kiev’s performances in the Champions League over recent years. So although Mkhitaryan has scored 25 goals in Ukraine, is that really special enough to be worth all this fuss and legal deals?

And despite Shakhtar’s success in the elite European competition, where they qualified out of the group stage for the second time in three years, the Armenian’s personal record in the competition isn’t particularly great. The 24-year-old has only scored twice in 21 Champions League appearances, netting a brace against FC Nordsjaelland in this season’s opening match of the group stages. Added to his six appearances in the competition with FC Pyunik, his total stands at two lonely goals in 27 matches against Europe’s finest.

And yet the Reds will have to pay £23million in a complicated transfer for a man who has had one good season. It seems like a big risk for Rodgers and Ayre to spend their initial transfer kitty on just one player – who is fairly unproven on the big stage. The midfielder could be a great signing, and could prove himself in the Premier League after a great season in Ukraine. But his Champions League record leaves a lot of questions of whether Mkhitaryan will really be able to perform on the big stage.

Considering Robin van Persie, the league’s top scorer in the 2011/12 season with 30 goals for the Gunners, cost United just £24million this summer, just £1million more than the fee agreed for Mkhitaryan, surely Ian Ayre could find a proven and established player for the same price? Sir Alex Ferguson knew that he would get goals with the Dutch striker, who had already proven himself at the highest of levels with stunning results. Surely, Ayre must be able to find a similar talent, who can bring a wealth of experience to Anfield as well as reliability.

Liverpool are entering a huge moment in their recent history. It has been three miserable seasons since the Reds were in the Champions League, and will be four by the end of next season. The club have fallen well short of their expected targets, and desperately need to bounce back into the top four. It’s also an important time for Brendan Rodgers. About to start his second season with the Reds, he set up a decent platform to push off from. But if he doesn’t show a significant improvement this season, questions will start to be asked over his future at the club.

Finally it’s a big time for Anfield. The club have finally decided to scrap plans for a new stadium, and will instead start spending their money on redeveloping the famous ground. But with the target of adding another 20,000 seats, John W. Henry will be spending a fair bit of money on renovating the home of Liverpool football club. With this in mind, does he really have £23million to gamble with? A football team to run, new stadium plans to finance and a famous baseball team to operate, Henry’s wallet will be heavily stretched.

So maybe Mkhitaryan’s ownership could be a nice excuse for Liverpool to pull out of the deal. Rodgers and Ayre must get this season right, or things will start turning sour at the club. Players will want to leave for bigger teams, fans will become disgruntled and start launching attacks on the management, and of course they will have serious questions to answer from their American boss. So if you’re going to spend £23million just on a player’s transfer fee, surely you want to bring in a guaranteed talent?

For the club’s sake, I hope I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too cautious, but that sort of money is a lot to gamble during this time for Liverpool, on a player with mixed results. An experienced attacking midfielder such as Mathieu Valbuena would cost half the price of Mkhitaryan, but at least Rodgers would know what he was signing. Even Christian Eriksen, who is three years younger than the Armenian, is expected to cost just £15million, leaving Rodgers £8million to spend elsewhere.

But spending £20million plus on a player who has struggled in the Champions League is always a risk. The question for Rodgers is – is it worth taking? Especially when you consider the Armenian’s has confusing ownership problems. I suspect Liverpool chiefs will at least talk to the parties owning Mkhitaryan about what they would need to do. But while they do, a cheaper, younger, and yet more proven player in Christian Eriksen watches on.

Should Liverpool sign Mkhitaryan anyway, despite his ownership issues? Will he be worth £23million?

Share your thoughts below!

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