Pretty much exactly one year ago, Dortmund was in a state of uncertainty. After an awful beginning to the 14/15 season BVB still managed to achieve seventh place and qualify for the Europa League. Jürgen Klopp left and many of the players were rumored to have considered leaving too. One of them was Henrikh Mkhitaryan. His departure was all but confirmed and many of the supporters had already written off the young Armenian player. After two uneven seasons with the club he still needed to prove that he was worth the title of being the most expensive transfer in BVB's long history at €27.5 million.
Enter Thomas Tuchel. Our newly appointed coach saw something in him and made it his number one priority to keep Mkhitaryan in this squad. And, oh boy, did that decision pay off or what?
After two years of inconsistency under Jürgen Klopp, Tuchel seems to have found the right approach to get through to the sensitive Armenian. It is undeniable that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been the best player in black and yellow this season. His stats speak volumes about his contributions in this record setting season for Borussia. He scored 23 goals and had 32 assists across all competitions. Unfortunately BVB's number 10 came in just one assist short (20) of the assist record (21) set by Kevin De Bruyne in the previous Bundesliga season.
However, it wasn't just his statistical contributions that filled us with joy, but rather his prowess on the pitch in general. Mkhitaryan's skill-set fits perfectly, with Thomas Tuchel's 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid system, as a right winger that regularly cuts inside to deliver the last deadly pass or finish the attack himself. His long runs often culminated in dangerous situations and his constant position-switching with Marco Reus confused opposing defenses to such a degree that our attacking three (Mkhitaryan, Reus, Aubameyang) regularly outplayed entire back-lines by themselves.
Uhm...the...uhm...there...was that...uhhhh...seriously he was fantastic.
Kidding aside, there is really not that much to criticize about Mkhitaryan's season except for one thing. His omission from the penalty shootout against Bayern in the DFB Pokal final was odd and it's still unclear if that choice was his or Tuchel's. Although the thought of Tuchel intentionally leaving out one of the best scorers for two centre-backs is hard to imagine. Mkhitaryan has always been a more reflective and sensitive player, but in that instance he should have shown more leadership no matter the coach's choice.
Multiple reports suggest that Mkhitaryan was close to agreeing to a new deal back in October 2015 that would have brought him €7.5 million per year and would have kept him at the club until 2021.
Sadly this has not come to fruition yet and every BVB fan is still awaiting the Armenian to commit to the club long term. Even though club officials like CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and GM Michael Zorc have been incessant in reiterating that a deal is still in the making, those negotiations with Mkhitrayan's agent Mino Raiola seem to be extremely difficult. As of right now the deal-breaker doesn't seem to be the salary, but Dortmund's refusal to put a release clause in the contract.
With a slew of Premier League clubs offering a king's ransom for his services and a contract ending after the 2016/2017 season, Dortmund have a tough decision to make if he refuses to extend.