"He is a weapon in front of goal – his shooting technique is incredible," beamed Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp as he assessed Henrikh Mkhitaryan's performance at Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. "As a person, he might even be a bit better than he is as a footballer."
The coach had plenty of reason to heap praise upon the 24-year-old attacking midfielder; he poached his side's first goal of the game with some panache, then showed tremendous class and composure to score what proved to be the winner with a brilliant low shot. It was the culmination of a great performance, and the end of a nervy few weeks for last season's UEFA Champions League finalists, who finally were able to show the world that they had not broken their transfer record in vain.
Dortmund reportedly paid a fee in excess of €25m to FC Shakhtar Donetsk to bring in the Armenian international – well in excess of their previous highest fee, the then-German record of DM50m they paid for Márcio Amoroso back in 2001. Mkhitaryan seemed to have hit the ground running when he scored and provided an assist in a 3-1 friendly win against FC Basel 1893 in May, but an ankle injury proved to be the end of his pre-season campaign, and he missed the Bundesliga opener – a 4-0 win against FC Augsburg.
Drafted in to the first XI for the subsequent wins against promoted TSV Eintracht Braunschweig (2-1) and SV Werder Bremen (1-0), Mkhitaryan hardly dazzled. The 2011 and 2012 title winners won both matches but their star signing was the first to admit that he had not been on his game. "I have not played my best football," he said, though fans had taken note of his impressive work-rate and willingness to put in tackles in midfield – something for which his predecessor Mario Götze was not renowned.
His new team-mates quickly stepped in to support him, captain Sebastian Kehl reminding fans that even Götze – who left Dortmund for FC Bayern München at the end of last season – had not been an instant hit at the club. "Mario speaks German and it took him a very long time to get used to the way we play football," the midfielder explained. "'Micki' needs a little more time and he should be given that."
Marco Reus, meanwhile, put a perceived lack of understanding between him and his new team-mate to the fact that "it was only the second time we played together", but Sunday's showing removed the need for any further excuses. Instead, centre-back Neven Subotić offered a warning to his club's opponents. "Those two goals will help him to feel at home on the pitch," he said. "It is nice that the penny has dropped now. He is capable of much more. We know that from what we see in training."
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