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Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in a much better place at Borussia Dortmund than he was a year ago. He reflects on his season and his relationship with Thomas Tuchel with DW's Barbara Mohr.
You were, at that time, the most expensive new player for Dortmund, and still are, but things on the pitch just didn't go as you wanted, did they?
As well as being me, it was also the team's game which wasn't working very well. Everyone was trying but in the end we couldn't win or score enough goals to win. After the first half of the season, we were in the bottom places, which was horrible for us. Then in the second half of the season we started to play better, we had a little bit of luck and in the end we qualified for the Europe League. This year I can say that the first half of the season is good enough because we're still in the German Cup, we're the second in Bundesliga and in the Europe League we have to fight with Porto. We're going to try and do everything for this to continue at the highest level, to also be ready for next season.
And this is because the performance of the whole team is better. But this is also because you play much better…
Yeah, of course I am really excited that I can score a lot, I can assist a lot and play good, but I'm also very excited because of the team game. This year we're playing amazing football, everybody has started to like our football style. And I think they will continue to like this. So in the near future it will be really very good for us.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of Borussia Dortmund's most expensive transfers, and this season he is living up to his price tag.
In the first couple of games you scored and assisted more goals than in the whole last season. So there is also a dramatic change - a positive change - in your play. How did you yourself experience this development?
At first, if we compare: Last year, I didn't do too much. It was five or six goals in the whole season and seven assists. This season, the first few games were really very important for me because I got confidence in scoring and assisting. So now we have to continue like that. I have to continue like that because I'm optimistic and I'm going to do everything to do the best that I can.
At the end of last season you had even thought about leaving the club. But then Thomas Tuchel came and there was also this so-called “famous phone-call” from him. Is it right that he called you even before the training session started and asked you to stay?
I met him for the first time in March and he convinced me to stay. I wanted to stay also, because I had some things to prove to the people, to show that I deserve to be here. That's why I am trying to stay this year also, to show all my qualities in helping the team to win a lot of games.
And Mr. Tuchel obviously knew that you could do better. We also talked to him and whenever he mentioned your name, he became very enthusiastic, saying the nicest things about you. There must also be something special between the two of you, right?
Yeah, of course we have a good connection and I'm very happy that I have the chance to work with him. Because really, from the first talk we had he told me that “Miki, I can bring you to a level of high-class.” And yeah, at one point I doubted it because I was not really confident that after a bad season he could make me a high-class player. But he did it and I'm thankful to him.
So what does he do?
He just gives you the confidence you need and he lets you to do what you can do. And that's the whole reason that all the team's players are all shining this year.
After thriving under Thomas Tuchel, Henrikh Mkhitaryan may be tempted his future to Borussia Dortmund a little longer.
Because he gets to you, he talks to you…
Not only to me! He talks to all the players and he gets into the right conversation with them. He gives a lot of advice. He can tell you where you're right, where you're wrong and then you start to think about it all and at the end you realize that he was really right.
Will he be able to convince you to stay longer?
I hope so. If he did the first step, why not the second?
Because there are more rumors that you could leave the club…
Nah… They're rumors, just rumors. That's right.
So let's end with a look ahead. If you look at the second half of the season, where do you see Dortmund? What do you expect?
I want to see us in the highest places because, really, with this kind of football we deserve to be at a minimum, in second place. So we're going to fight to qualify for the Champions League for next year, then to go again to Berlin for the German Cup Final and in the Europe League, to go as far as possible.
Interview: Barbara Mohr