Henrikh Mkhitaryan became the star of the show at Borussia Dortmund as he was nurtured into a star by Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. - © DFL
Henrikh Mkhitaryan became the star of the show at Borussia Dortmund as he was nurtured into a star by Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. - © DFL

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Armenia's midfield magician, made in the Bundesliga


Henrikh Mkhitaryan proved he could flourish in Europe's top five leagues after Borussia Dortmund brought the Armenia international to the Bundesliga as he scored and made goals under Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

bundesliga.com details how Mkhitaryan - now at Roma after spells at Manchester United and Arsenal - morphed from exciting prospect to bona fide game-changer in his three seasons in Germany.

Mkhitaryan was the third summer arrival of 2013 along with Sokratis and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but after his performances for Shakhtar Donetsk and the club record fee Dortmund paid for him, there was no doubt he was the one most was expected of.

Mkhitaryan quickly became a favourite of then-Borussia Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp. - imago images

"We're really happy to be able to present a super new arrival for our attacking midfield in Henrikh Mkhitaryan," said a smiling sporting director Michael Zorc, who gave his newly acquired star the number 10 shirt vacated by Mario Götze, a statement in itself.

"It wasn't an easy transfer, but we absolutely wanted to get Henrikh," explained CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. "And now we have him."

It didn't take long for the new arrival to make an impact. He had tallied an assist for Marco Reus and scored himself within 16 minutes of a pre-season friendly with Basel, and though injury in another warm-up encounter meant he sat out the opening Bundesliga game, he soon showed he could cut it in Europe's big leagues.

As his team roared out of the blocks, so did 'Micki', netting three times in his first four league games, including a brace at Eintracht Frankfurt that brought a 2-1 win. "It's not really me you should be congratulating but the team, it's most important that we won," he said with his trademark humility.

Mkhitaryan (r.) became one of the key players at Borussia Dortmund alongside Shinji Kagawa (l.) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c.). - DFL

"I'm really settling in, this is a great place to improve, and we're still getting better as a team. Jürgen Klopp is one of the best coaches in the world, and I'm proud that he's my coach - together we can be successful."

At the time, that certainly looked the case with Dortmund clear at the top of the table come the 2013/14 season's first international break. Klopp's men would eventually finish second to Bayern Munich, but Mkhitaryan could certainly look back on a successful first league campaign in Germany with nine goals and 10 assists in 31 league appearances.

The promise of that debut season faded a little in Mkhitaryan's second campaign at the Signal Iduna Park. A foot injury early in the surprise Matchday 4 loss at Mainz - Dortmund's second defeat in their opening four matches - set the tone in what was to prove Klopp's last year as BVB coach.

A muscle injury just before Christmas also hampered Mkhitaryan, who struggled to recapture his form, as Dortmund finished the first half of the season second-from-bottom of the table with 10 defeats in their opening 17 matches.

Mkhitaryan also became a firm-favourite of Borussia Dortmund fans, especially when they faced local rivals Schalke. - DFL

"We were losing so much, and I felt like I was having no luck. Not only was I not scoring, but I was not assisting, which is very unlike me. I had been signed for a lot of money, and I put a lot of pressure on myself," Mkhitaryan would later explain.

"I had many hard nights in my apartment in Dortmund, all alone, just thinking and thinking. I didn't want to go outside, even to have dinner."

It took him until Matchday 23 and a 3-0 derby win over Schalke in late February to net his opening goal of the game - not a bad game to score in for a Dortmund player - to get off the mark. He ended with three goals and six assists in 28 league outings as Dortmund also recovered to move into a seventh-placed finish, and sunnier times were around the corner for Mkhitaryan.

"Fate can be interesting. A new manager, Thomas Tuchel, came to Dortmund before my third season, and he changed everything for me," Mkhitaryan said. "He came to me and said, 'Listen, I want to get everything out of you.'"

Now a UEFA Champions League-winning coach, Tuchel at the time was billed as an up-and-coming tactician who had enjoyed success at Mainz and was moving into his first major job with the potentially thorny task of replacing the iconic, Bundesliga title-winning Klopp.

But the current Chelsea manager had an almost instant impact on his Armenian star. Playing in an attacking 4-1-4-1 line-up with Reus, Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa and Ilkay Gündogan, Mkhitaryan struck twice in the 4-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach to open the 2015/16 season with a bang.

"After the season I had had, I didn't think I could be a star. But he did it. He got everything out of me that season, and it was because I was happy again," said Mkhitaryan of Tuchel.

"That season, we played with enthusiasm. We played a crazy, super-attacking style, and we enjoyed every minute on the pitch. We basically played with two defenders, three midfielders and five strikers, and we had success. Even when we lost, we had fun."

Watch: Mkhitaryan's 2015/16 magic

They did lose, but only four times in the Bundesliga as they finished runners-up to the peerless Bayern. Mkhitaryan played in all but three of their top-flight matches, netting 11 times and setting up 20 more goals to end as one of the campaign's stand-out performers league-wide.

It was to be a glorious swansong as - with just 12 months left on his contract - Mkhitaryan moved on to United, signing for them at the same time as Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"Based on a completely new situation, this transfer was a difficult trade-off for us," said Watzke. "Manchester made us a very attractive offer. Had we refused it, the player would have left us on a free transfer in 2017 and we would only have delayed the matter of replacing him for a year."

But it was those years in Dortmund which showed Mkhitaryan to the rest of Europe and beyond.