Arsenal have confirmed that Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the Europa League final against Chelsea in Baku next Wednesday amid fears over his safety.
This decision is due to the tense political dispute between Mkhitaryan’s Armenia and final hosts Azerbaijan.
The Gunners, in a statement on Tuesday, have decided against Mkhitaryan travelling with the rest of Unai Emery’s squad for the game.
“We are very disappointed to announce that Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be travelling with the squad for our UEFA Europa League final against Chelsea.
“We have thoroughly explored all the options for Micki to be part of the squad but after discussing this with Micki and his family we have collectively agreed he will not be in our travelling party.
“We have written to UEFA expressing our deep concerns about this situation,” the Arsenal statement added.
“We’re also very sad that a player will miss out on a major European final in circumstances such as this, as it is something that comes along very rarely in a footballer’s career.
“Micki has been a key player in our run to the final so this is a big loss for us from a team perspective.”
Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the UK, Tahir Taghizadeh, had insisted Mkhitaryan would be free from any threat of violence, but it was reported the star didn’t believe he would be safe on the pitch.
This is not the first time Mkhitaryan is declining to travel to Azerbaijan for a game, with the Armenian captain skipping the Gunners’ Europa League fixture against Qarabag in October, as well as one with Qabala FK when he was still at Borussia Dortmund.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have feuded over Nagorny Karabakh since Armenian separatists seized the territory in a war that claimed about 30,000 lives in the early 1990s.
“Having considered all the current options, we had to take the tough decision for me not to travel with the squad to the UEL Final against Chelsea,” Mkhitaryan tweeted.
“It’s the kind of game that doesn’t come along very often for us players and I must admit, it hurts me a lot to miss it. I will be cheering my teammates on! Let’s bring it home!”
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