Liverpool are stepping up their efforts to secure Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for £20 million as Brendan Rodgers sets his sights on his first major summer signing.
The Merseyside club are preparing a formal approach to the Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk for the 24-year-old.
Mkhitaryan has become one of the most highly-sought attacking midfielders in Europe and if Liverpool can lure the player despite the absence of European football at Anfield next season it would represent quite a coup.
Rodgers made Mkhitaryan his prime target when assembling his list of summer recruits.
Initially, there were suggestions Liverpool would have to fund such a move with the proceeds of the sale of Luis Suárez, but that is not the case.
Indeed, the club is prepared to sign a player they have coveted in the hope it will convince the Uruguayan to remain on Merseyside, although that remains an optimistic hope at this stage given Suárez’s public comments asserting a desire to move to Real Madrid.
Mkhitaryan struck 25 goals in the Ukrainian league last season and is considered one of Shakhtar’s outstanding performers. He joined Donetsk in 2010, winning player of the year in 2012 and numerous league titles and domestic cups.
Shakhtar have already done business with the Premier League this month, allowing Fernandinho to join Manchester City for £34 million.
The Ukrainians’ signing of Wellington Nem from Fluminense and Fernando from Gremio for a combined £18 million appeared to pave the way for the loss of their two prized assets.
Rodgers has made it known he was pursuing more goals from an advanced midfielder and Mkhitaryan certainly fits the bill.
The Armenian can play as a central striker or in his preferred role as a No 10 behind the forwards. He was the star performer when Armenia demolished Denmark 4-0 in Copenhagen in last week’s World Cup qualifier, during which he scored and shone with his pace and skill.
It could become a hugely significant transfer window for Liverpool, especially with Iago Aspas secured, despite suggestions that his move has been ‘blocked’ by the Spanish Football Association. Liverpool have confirmed a deal with Celta Vigo has been done and they are simply awaiting documentation.
Suárez’s desire to join Real Madrid is unwelcome, but Rodgers is gradually trying to add more European-class quality into his squad to add to last January’s additions of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
Luis Alberto is another anticipated arrival from Sevilla, as is Sporting Lisbon’s defender Tiago Ilori.
The chances of signing Kyriakos Papadopoulos are receding, however, due to injury concerns surrounding the Greek defender.
Papadopoulos was an attractive option for Rodgers, but suffered a serious knee injury last season and the fee involved, well above the £12 million Liverpool initially anticipated, has made the Merseysiders consider other options.
Other players are available for transfer to bolster the transfer kitty. Jonjo Shelvey, the subject of interest from Norwich City, could leave for an offer in excess of £5 million, while despite a return to favour at the end of last season, Liverpool would also entertain bids for Stewart Downing.
Liverpool, though, are eager for Andy Carroll to confirm a £15 million move to West Ham as soon as possible.
Martin Skrtel has long been anticipated to leave in this transfer window, a reunion with former manager Rafael Benítez at Napoli mooted.