Teams: Armenian NT, FC Ararat, Liverpool, Toronto FC
Mkhitaryan worthy of a higher calling
by Khachik Chakhoyan from Yerevan
Friday 22 May 2009
FC Pyunik coach Vardan Minasyan has admitted that he would love to see his star player Henrikh Mkhitaryan "playing in a stronger league" after the 20-year-old started the Armenian season with nine goals in eight league games.
With his late father Hamlet Mkhitaryan – not to be confused with the current Armenian international midfielder of the same name – already recognised as one of Pyunik's star players of the late-Soviet era, young Henrikh is well on his way to becoming a legend in his own right, with coach Minasyan telling uefa.com: "He can win games on his own. He seizes control at the crucial moment and scores for fun."
Scorer of the winning goal in the recent Armenian Cup final, Mkhitaryan has also scored nine of his side's 21 league goals to date, with Pyunik making a suitably emphatic unbeaten start to their bid for a ninth successive local title. "He has made a huge step forward," said Minasyan. "However, I would like to see him playing in a stronger league. That would help him and the national team as well."
Mkhitaryan for his own part is dreaming of the English Premier League. "My favourite team is Arsenal," said the attack-minded midfielder, who has played ten games for Armenia, scoring once. "I like their attacking play and fast style. Moreover, Arsène Wenger puts faith in young players while demanding results at the same time. I like that and want to play there one day."
Making that dream a reality may demand better performances on the biggest stage, with Pyunik yet to progress beyond the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. Mkhitaryan remains hopeful. "BATE Borisov and Anorthosis Famagusta showed we shouldn't be afraid of the big teams," he said. "If we can't reach the Champions League group stage I really hope we can play in the Europa League."
In the meantime, Mkhitaryan is busy with domestic matters, where he insists things are tougher than they look. "We are top but it is no pushover – we have worked hard. Everyone is at their best against the champions." Tougher games, though, can only improve him, as Minasyan said: "He is almost perfect. All he needs is confidence, but he has the time and skills to work on that."
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